Agri-Food Trade Policy
Agreement on Trade-Related aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs)
Intellectual property rights are rights granted by states to private parties to encourage creations of the mind such as inventions, artistic and literary works, marks and symbols. Intellectual property rights prevent misappropriation by others and give creators certain time-limited rights so that they can control the use made of their creations and reward them for their time, creativity, and investment. Each form of intellectual property gives rise to certain set of rights.
In Canada, the scope of intellectual property rights is governed by federal legislation and shaped by numerous court decisions. The three key areas of intellectual property protection are patents, trademarks and copyright. In Canada intellectual property rights fall under the purview of the Minister of Industry, and in the case of copyright, the Minister of Canadian Heritage (Canadian Intellectual Property Office).
Several multilateral discussions and negotiations regarding international
rules on Intellectual Property have been or are currently taking place.
These include the WTO (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property
Rights (TRIPS)), and The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO),
and within various bilateral and regional multilateral negotiations.
Key highlights of the TRIPS Agreement, which was completed in 1994 under the Uruguay round of Trade Negotiations, included establishment of minimum international levels of intellectual property protection, and phased-in schedules to provide developing and least-developed countries with additional time to implement obligations.
One of the key areas in which Intellectual Property protections intersect with the Agri-Food industry is in the area of Geographical Indications. The TRIPS Agreement defines GIs as "indications which identify a good as originating in the territory of a Member, or a region or locality in that territory, where a given quality, reputation or other characteristic of the good is essentially attributable to its geographical origin." In other words, there must be a link between what the good is like and where it is produced. This link may inform consumers of a certain quality or characteristic of the good, which may then be factored into the purchasing decision.
The WTO-TRIPS Agreement contains obligations relating to geographical indications for all goods, including the ones providing "enhanced" protection for wines and spirits (Articles 22 to 24).
Two issues are in discussion at the TRIPS negotiations: 1) Establishment of a multilateral system of notification and registration for wines and spirits GIs, and 2) discussions on whether enhanced protection available for wines and spirits should be extended to other products including food products. Canada continues to advocate that any system of notification and registration must remain voluntary and non-binding, and that existing protections of GIs for goods other than wines and spirits provided under Article 22 of the TRIPS Agreement is effective and sufficient. In Canada's view, extension of enhanced GI protection through TRIPS beyond wines and spirits is not necessary.
Discussions on enhanced protection for Geographical indications can also arise within bilateral and regional negotiations. Canada's positions in all negotiations are informed by Canada's laws and policies regarding Trademarks, as well as the use of common names in the Canadian marketplace that are used in association with agri-food products.
For further information:
- Intellectual Property Rights and the WTO
- World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)
- International Trade Canada (ITCan)
- Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO)
For more information, please contact:
Senior Trade Policy Analyst (Canada-EU FTA Negotiations)
Telephone: (613) 773-1730
Fax: (613) 773-1755