Washington International Law Journal


Michael Begg


In February 1992, Thailand amended its patent law to provide patent protection for drugs. The amendment resulted from pressure by the United States pharmaceutical industry and the United States Trade Representative; it was not a Thai internal policy decision. Bleak prospects in the U.S. drug market due to a climate of increasing restraints on drug prices have led the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association to push for patent protection for their products abroad. Consequently, the United States Trade Representative pressured Thailand to amend its Patent Act to include pharmaceuticals, threatening to use Section 337 of the Trade and Tariff Act of 1930 and Section 301 of the Trade and Tariff Act of 1974 against it, and threatening the revocation of GSP (Generalized System of Preferences) benefits. This Comment examines the tactics employed by the United States between 1988 and 1992 in its negotiations with Thailand for patent protection for pharmaceuticals and the assumptions underlying those tactics. The evidence indicates that Thailand may not yet be economically, structurally and socially ready for drug patent protection and the step toward industrialization it represents. The Comment further concludes that the United States' tactics do not accord with a rational concept of trade negotiations, and are likely to harm its interests in the long term by injuring its relationship with Thailand. Moreover, the United States' moral claims with regard to the necessity of patent protections are unjustified. The Comment suggests that a truly multilateral resolution of international drug patent problems is appropriate and proposes that the World Intellectual Property Organization be reconsidered in that regard in future patent protection negotiations with Thailand and other developing countries.

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