The Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights of the World Trade Organization, or WTO TRIPS Agreement, provides an international infrastructure for the understanding of and enforcement of intellectual property rights as they pertain to commercial activity and exchange.
It was negotiated during the Uruguay Round of trade talks held from 1986 to 1994 and went into effect in 1995, awaiting mandatory implementation by developed nations until 2000 and by underdeveloped nations until 2006 (now updated for general purposes to 2013, and for special cases until 2016).
The WTO TRIPS was intended to achieve a measure of flexibility and adaptability in the implementation of its rules by being geared toward minimal standards for intellectual property right protection on the part of signatory nations.
The issue of intellectual property rights is addressed by the World Trade Organization as being largely a matter of allowing the creators of an original work of some kind to exercise the right of blocking others from using his or her creation without permission and of gaining monetary compensation from those who do proceed with permission.
The WTO TRIPS Agreement is intended to allow these rights to exist across the borders of the various nations engaged in commerce with each other, guaranteeing that the citizens and governments are held to account for each others’ rights.
In addition to merely regulatory and punitive measures, the WTO TRIPS Agreement was also put into effect with the general goal of encouraging commercial and intellectual activity and the development of ideas for the benefit of humankind.
With this directive in mind, the World Trade Organization counteracts the measures aimed strictly at protecting the rights of the author of a work with allowances for such work to become more publicly accessible over time or in periods of great need. Despite these measures, the World Trade Organization has received criticism to the effect that this policy is still unduly beneficial to developed nations at the expense of countries with fewer resources of intellectual property rights.
Various provisions of the WTO TRIPS Agreement can be found as pertain to the issues of the different kinds of material which may be considered to fall under protection as intellectual property rights, the relations between individual World Trade Organization members in enforcing these rules, and the means through which intellectual property rights can be enforced.
Under the definitions of the World Trade Organization, the kind of copyright protection conventionally associated with literary and artistic works is also extended to computer programs found to exhibit sufficient levels of originality. Other common forms taken by intellectual property rights such as patents and trademarks are also covered under the WTO TRIPS Agreement.
In order to ensure that these various legal protection measures are effectively implemented, the World Trade Organization requires that signatory nations enforce intellectual property rights through procedures restrictive enough to provide potential offenders with incentive not to act, but not so harsh as to impose penalties and other inconveniences out of proportion to the offense