Ethiopia’s Accession to World Trade Organization (WTO): The Need to Reform Ethiopian Patent Law to Facilitate Access to Medicine

As a country dealing with a pending WTO accession procedure, Ethiopia is required/expected to go through different legal reforms to have WTO-compliant domestic laws. Inter alia, the country needs to review its laws to protect intellectual properties as envisaged under the rule of WTO. However, adopting WTO-compliant rules to protect intellectual property, especially patent, exhibits a cross-road of patent protection and access to patented inventions such as pharmaceuticals. It is logical to think that strong patent protection highly challenges an eased public access to the patented invention since the very nature of patent provides a stronger exclusive right to the right holder. To systematically deal with the issue of balancing patent protection to right holders and access to medicine to the public, different countries successfully reformed their laws to facilitate access to medicine while still adhering to WTO’s patent rules. Thus, scrutinizing areas of reforms under Ethiopian patent law, to facilitate access to medicine before joining the WTO, would help the country to adopt WTO-compliant rules that exhaustively address/exploit all exceptions, flexibilities and legal loopholes available to facilitate access to medicine.

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