The WTO and Intellectual Property in the Midst of Tectonic Shift

Presentation by Prof. Frederick Abbott at WTO@20 Conference, New Delhi

17 February 2017

Organized by the Appellate Body of the World Trade Organization

together with National Law University, Delhi

Audio Recording


Lecture on Trade Implications of Trump Election

This is an audio recording of Prof. Abbott's November 9, 2016 lecture on the potential trade and economic implications of the election of Donald Trump as the next President of the United States, with his class on International Trade and Investment Law at Florida State University College of Law.


South Africa DTI Consultative Framework

The Department of Trade and Industry (the dti) of the Republic of South Africa, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) three-day workshop on the dti intellectual property (IP) consultative framework, in Pretoria, South Africa, from 28-30 September, 2016. The objective of the workshop was to obtain inputs from stakeholders on the framework, which forms the basis for the development of the national IP policy.

Four presentations by Frederick M. Abbott




TRIPS plus provisions in plurilateral/regional trade agreements and their impact on access to medicines at the national and global level

Presentation by Frederick Abbott

and following remarks by Director General Margaret Chan

Official BRICS Side-event

Access to Medicines and Trade Agreements

69th World Health Assembly

May 23, 2016, 1745-1915hrs

(Room XII, Building A, Level 3, Palais des Nations, Geneva)



Patents and Public Health 2016: Selected Developments and Issues

Prof. F. M. Abbott

FSU College of Law

International IP Roundtable

Friday, April 8 –Saturday, April 9, 2016

William S. Boyd School of Law, University of Nevada Las Vegas


Groundhog Day: Health-related provisions in FTAs and TRIPS

Frederick M. Abbott

Session on the TRIPS Agreement in the light of preferential trade and investment agreements

At “The Changing Global Innovation and Intellectual Property Policy Landscape: Present Challenges and Future Directions (II): TRIPS at 20 and beyond”
Organized by the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD), October 30-31, 2014, WTO Headquarters, Geneva, Switzerland
Text posted - file below


When I was asked to address the subject of the impact of preferential trading agreements, and particularly free trade agreements (FTAs), on public health within the context of the TRIPS Agreement, the movie “Groundhog Day”, with Bill Murray and Andie McDowell, came to mind. I am sure you will all recall this film in which the flawed protagonist, Bill Murray, wakes up at the same time day after day to find that it is the beginning of the same day. That is the general sense I have about the subject of public health and FTAs. In the movie, while repeating the same day, Bill Murray learns, adapts, and improves himself in order to win the affections of his romantic interest, Andie McDowell, and he eventually succeeds. In the movies, not surprisingly, there is a happy ending.  It is not so clear in the real world of public health and FTAs what will be the result. We may be learning and adapting, or we may be repeatedly beating our heads against the same wall.


Transfer of Technology and a Global Clean Energy Grid

Frederick M. Abbott

Prepared for International Trade in Electricity and the Greening Economy
World Trade Forum, World Trade Institute, 26-27 September 2014
Paper as delivered September 27, 2014; to be revised for publication in 2014 World Trade Forum volume by Cambridge University Press

Download here


The prospects for creation of a global clean electricity grid (GCEG) must address two major elements: first, clean electricity generation, and second, the establishment of a global grid through and across which electricity may be shared. There have been a number of significant studies of the potential for technology transfer to facilitate clean energy generation, including identification of potential patent obstacles.  Some of those studies have taken into account the technologies that may be important to creating “smart grids” for energy distribution, including identification of intellectual property issues involving computer software that may be associated with that.  This author is not so far aware of research studies specifically concerning technology transfer issues in connection with the creation of a GCEG. That is, what aspects of technology transfer may be relevant to global cross-border trade in “green” electricity, whether there are potential obstacles to such trade created by the global system designed to protect rights in intellectual property, and what might be practical mechanisms for facilitating technology transfer?

As to the technologies that may be important for creating an international power grid, and the posited creation of a CGEG, it should be noted that computer software and digital technologies will play an important role, and that patents may not be the only form of IP relevant in this area. While patents are used to protect computer software (with variations among national/regional jurisdictions), software is also and perhaps predominantly protected by copyright, and in certain instances trade secret. Moreover, there are questions arising around “network effects”, for example, and potential widespread adoption of standardized computer networking systems that may be important to a shared grid. Technical standards are likely to play an important role in the integration of systems and networks.

The territorial nature of the international intellectual property system raises some intriguing issues in respect to the potential emergence of a global power grid.

Though the prospect may seem counterintuitive, it may be that the technologies involved in the establishment of cross-border trade in electricity, and a more extensive global electricity grid, will be more subject to concentration than the underlying energy generation assets.

The current global security environment suggests that allowing relatively open access to the technology underlying an energy grid that may address the electricity needs of a substantial number of countries would not be prudent. To the contrary, the potential risks from a security standpoint may argue in favor of a heavily guarded proprietary/secret program to which very few individuals have unrestricted access.

One practical solution for creating a system of global technology sharing is some agreement on mechanisms for establishing joint venture partnerships that takes into account the interests of private sector technology suppliers, private or public sector technology recipients, and the interests of the public in affordable access to the resulting energy products/services. A part of that mechanism might involve the creation of a global patent or broader technology pool to which private enterprise and government research laboratories would agree to transfer relevant technologies, and from which grid operators throughout the global system could draw.

The foregoing discussion views the potential establishment of a GCEG from a global perspective. Most real-world large-scale projects do not start out as multilateral endeavors, but rather through bilateral public and private arrangements that may be extended geographically over time. Just so, transfers of technology directed toward establishing a GCEG might well begin at a more modest level through bilateral and regional electricity sharing agreements and programs.


Local Production of Pharmaceutical Products in Africa: the WHO approach

Frederick M. Abbott

Presentation at the 2014 Annual Meeting of the

Society for the Advancement of Socio-Economics (SASE)

Chicago, Illinois, US


July 11, 2014


Download Text Here




The WHO Global Strategy and Plan of Action mandated the Director General to support transfer of technology and local production of medicines in developing countries. This paper briefly lays out the conditions for local production in Africa and describes the on-going work program of the WHO Department of Public Health, Innovation, Intellectual Property and Trade (PHI) directed at supporting local production efforts. Encouragement of local production is not without controversy as governments must weigh their interest in pursuing the potential holistic benefits of security of supply, support for research and training, manufacturing employment and balance of payments improvements, with assuring that supplies are purchased at prices competitive with global lowest-priced supplies of assured quality. Ultimately, for local production efforts to be successful medicines must be provided at prices competitive with, and of comparable quality to, imported products. The African Union and national governments within Africa are promoting local production, and are working with the support of a number of multilateral organizations including UNIDO, UNCTAD, UNAIDS and WHO, with increasing interest of the African Development Bank. There is considerable attention both from local investors and multinational industry, and there are opportunities for technology leapfrogging. From the WHO perspective, the key element is to focus attention on the promotion of public health objectives, including through the strengthening of regulatory capacity. The author is consultant adviser to WHO PHI.





Investment Chapters in Trade Agreements: IP Rights as Protected Investments

Sponsored by the ASIL Intellectual Property Interest Group and the ILA Committee on International Trade Law

April 11, 2014

Consolidated write-up of F. Abbott, S. Sell & J. Reichman (download below)

PowerPoint of Jerome Reichman (download below)

ASIL Cables Report Link

Investment chapters of trade and investment agreements have attracted renewed attention due to current disputes involving intellectual property rights affecting public health interests. This panel will examine issues that may arise from treating IP rights as protected investments in trade and investment agreements. Should foreign corporations be entitled to demand host country taxpayer compensation by bringing governments before trade and investment arbitration tribunals to challenge domestic court decisions on patents? May government standards regarding intellectual property rights constitute regulatory takings entailing compensation to the intellectual property owner?

Moderator: Frederick M. Abbott, Florida State University College of Law


• James Love, Knowledge Ecology International

• Jerome H. Reichman, Duke University School of Law

• Susan K. Sell, Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University

Comment: Gary Horlick, Washington, DC



Presentation at OHCHR Seminar on the Right to Enjoy the Benefits of Scientific Progress and Its Applications

4 October 2013

Room XXIV, Palais des Nations, Geneva

Organized by the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)

Session 1: The right to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress and intellectual property rights: conflict or complementarity

Frederick M. Abbott

Prepared Text of Remarks