Intellectual Property Rights in the Making: The Evolution of Intellectual Property Provisions in US Free Trade Agreements and Access to Medicine
Examining 14 US free trade agreements (FTAs), this article presents a text analysis of their intellectual property (IP) provisions with reference to patents and data protection. For each type of provision present in a given FTA, a “unit of protection” is assigned in that category. This method allows us to estimate the evolution in protection for each type of provision, both relative to the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights standard and from one agreement to the next. The analysis reveals a global increase in IP rights (IPR) protection, as the agreements get more stringent and specific provisions get more intricate and complex. But it also shows that the increase of IPR protection is not strictly linear over time and that some variation does exist in the outcomes of the negotiations. Nevertheless, IPR is clearly on the rise, and close comparative analysis of the different texts sheds light on the process of the setting of these new standards. Ultimately, this analysis provides a snapshot of the challenges that will soon be brought to bear on the policies on access to medicine in developing countries.