The Big Secret Behind the Proposed TRIPS Waiver

James Pooley, former Deputy Director General of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), describes in this article how TRIPS only creates obligations for governments to pass laws supporting intellectual property rights of certain kinds: patents, copyrights, designs, trademarks, and trade secrets. Importantly, it doesn’t affect the private ownership of those rights. This is an important distinction, especially for trade secrets (or “undisclosed information” as they are called in TRIPS), because, unlike the other “registered” rights, they don’t depend for their existence on government certification. Rather, trade secrets only require a legal system that enforces confidentiality.  Furthermore, although patents usually steal the limelight in conversations about “technology transfer,” the truth is that they are only a part of most technology transfer stories.  After all, in order to actually build the factory and produce the goods, you need to know more than what’s in the patents.