This chapter provides an overview of the TRIPS Agreement. It first explains the historical and legal background of the Agreement and its place in the World Trade Organization (WTO). It then turns to the general provisions and basic principles, as well as other provisions and institutional arrangements, that apply to all the categories of intellectual property rights (IPRs) covered by TRIPS. Chapters II to VII then discuss each of these categories in more detail.
However, in order to understand the TRIPS Agreement it is important to first review the background to the intellectual property (IP) system: what the main forms of IPRs are, why these ‘rights’ are recognized, and how they are protected. These questions have been at the core of IP policy discussions since the adoption of the earliest IP laws, and continue to spark active debate. This chapter attempts neither to summarize various relevant legal and economic theories, nor to survey the range of views presented in the debate, but merely highlights some of the general concepts and approaches.
IPRs can be characterized as rights given to persons over the creations of their minds. They usually take the form of a limited ‘exclusive right’ granted under national law to a creator over the use of the creation for a certain period of time. Such a right allows the creator to exclude others from using the creation in certain ways without the creator’s authoriza- tion. The right holder can then extract economic value from the IPRs by using them directly or by authorizing others to do so.