Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement concluded

The trade ministers of the 12 countries who are party to the negotiations have announced that the terms of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) have been agreed.

The TPP is a multi-national free trade agreement, between Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam, which together represent approximately 40% of the world’s GDP. It is the most significant multi-lateral free trade agreement since the Uruguay round of the WTO.

The TPP negotiations were conducted in secret, and details remain scarce at the moment. The text of the agreement will now be finalised. It is not yet certain when the final text will become available to the public.

The agreement will need to be ratified by each of the participating countries. This means that the government of each country will be able to vote on whether to accede to the agreement (a yes/no vote), but will not be able to amend the text. If ratified, national legislation will then need to be amended (where necessary) to correspond to provisions of the agreement. The New Zealand Trade Minister has stated he expects the agreement to come into force within 2 years.

One of the final hurdles to agreement, which is of particular interest to Australia and New Zealand, was data protection for biologic medicines (discussed in more detail here. Our understanding is that there will be little change to the status quo on data protection for biologics in Australia and New Zealand, with the Agreement setting a minimum period of 5 years of data protection for biologics.

Whilst it has been widely reported that there will be no change to the standard patent term of 20 years, parties have agreed to patent term extensions where there is an unreasonable delay in examination of the patent application, or in getting regulatory approval (see here). Patent term extensions for pharmaceuticals are explained in more detail here. Unlike a number of the other countries, including Australia, New Zealand does not currently provide an extension of patent term for pharmaceuticals.

One other significant change is an extension of New Zealand’s copyright period from 50 years to 70 years from the death of the author.

Watch this space for more information on the IP Chapter as it becomes available.

David Nowak - 6 October 2015

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