The international political economy of intellectual property rights : the TRIPs agreement and the advanced pharmaceutical industry in Europe
The thesis explores the manner in which the R&D-based pharmaceutical industry in Europe organised and operated between 1995 and 1999 in order to secure its interests with regard to the agreement on trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights (TRIPs) of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). The TRIPs agreement represents a major increase in the global protection of intellectual property rights (IPRs). In fact, the agreement contradicts the general direction of the WTO, i.e. trade liberalisation, since it increases the monopolistic features of international trade in knowledge products. The research was motivated by one basic and fundamental question: why and how is such a strong international intellectual-property agenda in place. A pure economic approach does not provide a sufficient and satisfactory explanation for the creation of IPRs. For example, economists cannot conclude whether patents confer a net benefit or entail a net loss to society. This is due mainly to the structural trade-off built into the patent system: that by aiming to increase the amount of available knowledge in the future, the system represses the free and widespread use of available knowledge in the present. The international IP system, as exemplified by TRIPs, is even more difficult to explain in purely economic terms, particularly with respect to the uneven distribution of IPRs between "northern" and "southern" countries. The importance of IPRs to future economic growth, foreign direct investment and technology transfer is also in dispute. As an alternative to an explanation based on global welfare, the thesis suggests that a dynamic approach, based on the international political economy of interest groups and systemic outcomes, provides a better starting point for explaining how the international intellectual property agenda (TRIPs) was determined. This approach is tested here by focusing on the strategies, organisation, and actions of the R&D-based pharmaceutical industry in Europe and its IP allies, which aimed at preserving and exploiting the TRIPs agreement. Using their highly sophisticated and well-coordinated organisational build-up, the advanced pharmaceutical industry in Europe and its IP allies were able to mobilise regional authorities, such as the European Commission, in order to protect their current international IP achievements. This was despite opposition to the TRIPs agreement from developing and least-developed countries, which became particularly fierce in 1999.