At the World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference in Doha, a number of key declarations were made that will directly impact the operation of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). These declarations perform a multidimensional function: clarifying and reiterating existing rights and obligations, as well as setting out a negotiating agenda. By providing clarity on a number of critical issues, the Doha Ministerial Conference attempted to clear the way for future work on TRIPS.
Overall, the Doha Declarations with respect to the TRIPS Agreement are seen as a major step for developing (and particularly the least developed) countries towards securing flexibility in the use of intellectual property rights (IPRs), especially with respect to public health issues. Specifically, the Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health helps to ensure that in situations where a national emergency has to be dealt with, the set of options is not limited by the architecture of international IPRs. More generally, it reiterates the ability of countries to interpret the TRIPS Agreement in a way that is beneficial to them or reflective of their needs. The right to exercise flexibility over IPRs has historically been available to countries during their industrializing phase. While the TRIPS Agreement does limit the flexibility a country has, much work has attempted to emphasize the scope for discretion a country has in the design of its IPR system. The results of the Doha Ministerial Conference can be seen as an attempt to further stress the flexibility within the TRIPS Agreement.