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Ethiopia's World Trade Organization Accession and Maintaining Policy Space in Intellectual Property Policy in the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights Era: A Preliminary Look at the Ethiopian Patent Regime in the Light of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights Obligations and Flexibilities

Authors

  • Fikremarkos Merso Birhanu


Abstract

After having stayed as an observer for about 6 years, Ethiopia formally applied for membership at the World Trade Organization (WTO) in January 2003, and it has since been going through the accession negotiations. One of the areas of scrutiny by the WTO members as part of the accession process has been Ethiopia's intellectual property (IP) regime. Indeed, a number of issues were raised in relation to Ethiopia's IP regime in the three rounds of questions the country received from WTO members. In its replies to the questions from WTO members, Ethiopia has promised to revise this law in the light of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (the TRIPS Agreement). The accession process has thus given impetus for Ethiopia to embark on a reform of its IP regime, which is being carried out in two fronts: the enactment of new IP laws in areas where little or none existed before, and revising existing IP laws, particularly the patent law. This article analyzes Ethiopia's patent regime in light of the TRIPS Agreement, identifies the obligations that might need to be met as part of the accession, as well as the flexibilities that might be available to Ethiopia as a least-developed country (LDC).

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