Information concerning the flexibilities

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The TRIPS Agreement established minimum standards of protection that each member country of the WTO must grant to the holders of intellectual property rights. However, the TRIPS Agreement incorporates certain "flexibilities" concerning the implementation of those requirements. These flexibilities aim to permit developing and least-developed countries to use TRIPS-compatible norms in a manner that enables them to pursue their own public policies, either in specific fields, such as access to pharmaceutical products, or more generally, in establishing institutional frameworks that contribute to their economic development.

The WIPO Secretariat, along with Member States, has identified four clusters of flexibilities:

1. Flexibilities as to the method of implementing TRIPS obligations

The text of the TRIPS Agreement includes certain broad terms that are not specifically defined, such as “novelty” and “inventiveness.” The member states have considerable discretion in defining those terms.

2. Flexibilities as to substantive standards of protection

The TRIPs Agreement contains clauses that permit member states to provide higher or lower degrees of protection for certain rights.

3. Flexibilities as to mechanisms of enforcement

The TRIPs agreement defines the mechanisms that member states must adopt for the enforcement of copyright but leaves them considerable discretion in determining how to comply with those requirements.

4. Flexibilities as to areas not covered by the TRIPS Agreement

The TRIPs agreement does not govern all possible areas related to intellectual property rights. For example, utility models, traditional knowledge and handicrafts are not covered by the agreement.