72 MIZAN LAW REVIEW, Vol. 12, No.1 September 2018
Although intellectual property (IP) rights existed for so long in some countries,
it is fairly a new area of property rights, particularly as compared with real
property rights. IP can be classified into two broad areas: copyright and
industrial property. These categories cover areas such as copyright and related
rights, trademark, geographical indications, industrial designs and patents. With
the development of IP protection pertaining to different areas, there is tension
between protecting the interests of creators/inventors and public interest.
Indeed, patent laws have developed fast in the past few decades both at the
international and national levels. One can notice the development of international
patent laws and harmonization efforts starting from the 1883 Paris Convention.
However, the globalization of patent law gained momentum upon the
establishment of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1995. The Agreement
on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS) is one of the regimes
under WTO which requires members (including those in the process of
accession) to enact new laws or amend existing ones, one of the most important
fields being patent.
Ethiopia applied for WTO accession in January 2003 and the Working Party
on the Accession of Ethiopia was established in February 2003.1 The Ethiopian
Patent Law is largely TRIPS compliant in important aspects which tempts us to
think that our house is in order, albeit at the cost of citizens. The Ethiopian
Patent Law is the manifestation of the pressure of globalization than a domestic
policy objective, and it will further be stretched during the accession process if
local production capacity (in using certain inventions in Ethiopia) makes
progress. The experience of other countries shows this trend, particularly in
view of what it entails on domestic policy decision making.
Apart from TRIPS, there are also some bilateral trade agreements (BTAs)
that incorporate provisions on IP. Although numerous in number and diverse in
nature, this article looks into the impact of the EU-ACP Economic Partnership
Agreement, also known as the Cotonou Agreement.2 It also explores a
Generalized System of Preferences (GSPs), in the form of the African Growth
and Opportunity Act (AGOA), which sounds like a non-reciprocal trade benefit
but a look at its objectives, the eligibility criteria and the experience of the US
vis-á-vis certain Sub-Saharan African countries tells a different story. This can
1 For Ethiopia‟s accession, see
<https://www.wto.org/english/thewto_e/acc_e/a1_ethiopia_e.htm> accessed 28 September
2 Partnership Agreement between the Members of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group
of States of the One Part, and the European Community and its Member States o f the Other
Part, signed in Cotonou on 23 June 2000 (the Cotonou Agreement).