Revising the Trans-Pacific Partnership: What Does it Mean for Intellectual Property?

Recently, eleven member countries of the Trans-Pacific Partnership came to a consensus on the trade agreement’s “core elements”. The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a proposed trade agreement between various countries bordering the Pacific Ocean that aims to reduce tariffs. If implemented, this trade agreement would represent 40% of global trade. With the USA’s departure from the agreement, Canada was in the position, along with Japan, of being one of the partnership’s leading members.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has expressed his desire to encourage more “progressive” trade agreements and Canada, being a major player at the TPP negotiations, was able to realize this goal. While the agreement is still in progress, Canada pushed for mechanisms to reduce carbon emissions, provisions extolling the importance of the environment, articles respecting organized labour and the other member nations agreed. Particularly relevant to the field of intellectual property, the original intellectual property standards section has been suspended.

Various activists groups were highly critical of the original intellectual property standards. Such standards included increasing the length of trade-mark, patent and copyright protections, mandating legal protection of trade-secrets and requiring patents for products with biologics. Critics argued that these protections went beyond TRIPS. For example, TRIPS only requires copyright protection exist for 50 years but previous draft versions of the TPP demanded copyright protection of 70 years.

While the results are still undecided, it will be interesting to see Canada’s impact on the intellectual property section. Canada is a bit of an intellectual property outlier permitting non-commercial user-generated content and having relatively shorter copyright protection. Will the TPP be shaped after Canada’s approach or will other nations demand more restrictive provisions? The future will tell.

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