Intellectual Property

Statement, October 2021

Statement by the South Centre to the 2021 Assemblies of the Member States of WIPO

The South Centre is the intergovernmental think tank of developing countries based in Geneva. We are of the view that a central goal of WIPO as part of the UN system is to support the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. A balanced and flexible international intellectual property system, with adequate safeguards, can be supportive of the SDGs, as set by SDG 3b. Global supply and access to Covid-19 countermeasures can be accelerated with increased cooperation and removal of IP barriers. WIPO should support its Members to reach agreement on a temporary waiver of the TRIPS Agreement.

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Statement, September 2021

Frontier Technologies and IP – WIPO 4th Conversation

South Centre Statement, 23 September 2021

The South Centre is an intergovernmental think tank of 54 developing countries working across various policy areas, including health, intellectual property, and the impacts of the 4th Industrial Revolution. The following remarks focus on the necessary attention that should be laid out to the specific status of developing countries.

From the outset, it should be recalled that the technological divide between industrialized countries and most of the global south drastically limits the conditions to accrue benefits from data-intensive economies. This should not be understated in policy discussions such as the present one.

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SC Webinar, 7 October 2021

Emerging Trends in FTAs and Public Health: Are the EU, USA, and China shifting positions?

Thursday, 7 October 2021

16:00 – 17:30 CET

The South Centre is holding a series of webinars on emerging trends related to free trade agreements (FTAs) and investment agreements that impact public health. The goal is to generate awareness, share experiences and expand knowledge for academics, policymakers and negotiators in ongoing and/or future negotiations. After our first webinar focused on investment treaties and IP, we this webinar examines the EU, USA, and China’s recent experiences.

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Policy Brief 103, September 2021

Strong Intellectual Property Protection, Weak Competition Rules – or the Other Way Around to Accelerate Technology Transfer to the Global South? Ten Considerations for a “Prodevelopment” IP-Related Competition Law

By Klaus D. Beiter

Competition law provisions relating to intellectual property (IP) rights should play an enhanced role in facilitating the domestic and international transfer and dissemination of technology. IP-related competition rules in the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) create an obligation for Member States to apply competition law in the IP context. TRIPS competition rules should be read in a “prodevelopment” fashion – IP rights need to be read reductively, IP-related competition law expansively. Ten considerations for a “prodevelopment” IP-related competition law are formulated.

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Research Paper 136, September 2021

Canada’s Political Choices Restrain Vaccine Equity: The Bolivia-Biolyse Case

By Muhammad Zaheer Abbas, PhD

The COVID-19 pandemic has already claimed more than 4.6 million lives and caused significant economic harm. The Coronavirus is still circulating to cause further damage. In this context, this research paper argues that Canada’s political choices have restrained the equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. Part I evaluates Canada’s nationalistic approach of procuring COVID-19 vaccines more than its needs through secretly concluded pre-purchase agreements with brand-name pharmaceutical corporations as advised by a secretly born task force having clear ties with the vaccine industry. Part II examines Canada’s wavering and non-committal position on the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Waiver proposal. Canada’s confusing position of ‘not blocking’ the TRIPS Waiver while not supporting it either lacks legal clarity. Part III analyses the Bolivia-Biolyse case which highlights clear contradictions between statements and actions of the Canadian government. Since March 2021, Biolyse Pharma has been hamstrung by the first step in Canada’s Access to Medicines Regime (CAMR), where a preliminary requirement is that the COVID-19 vaccine must be added to Schedule 1 of the Canadian federal Patent Act before applying for an export-oriented compulsory licence. The Bolivia-Biolyse case is important as a test case for the CAMR system. Workability of this export-oriented compulsory licensing regime is critical for low- and middle-income countries in the Global South lacking the domestic capacity to manufacture COVID-19 vaccines. The Bolivia-Biolyse case is also important as Canada has argued at the World Trade Organization (WTO) that the TRIPS Waiver is not required because the existing mechanisms are working as intended.

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Research Paper 135, September 2021

Implementation of a TRIPS Waiver for Health Technologies and Products for COVID-19: Preventing Claims Under Free Trade and Investment Agreements

by Carlos M. Correa, Nirmalya Syam and Daniel Uribe

While increasing support from WTO members for a proposed waiver from certain obligations under the TRIPS Agreement with regard to health products required for responding to COVID-19 has made a decision on the TRIPS waiver imminent, the waiver will have to be implemented domestically by WTO members through appropriate legislative, administrative or judicial measures, including through executive orders that have been utilized to implement emergency measures in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. In this regard, the scope of the TRIPS waiver, as well as the terms of applicable free trade agreements (FTAs) and international investment agreements (IIAs) will also impact the policy space available to countries to implement the waiver. Ensuring a broad scope of the waiver, as well as complementary measures to safeguard the implementation of the waiver from potential challenges under FTAs or IIAs will be critical. This research paper discusses some options that could be explored to enable the implementation of the TRIPS waiver by overcoming possible impediments that could arise under such agreements.

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Policy Brief 102, September 2021

Accelerating COVID-19 Vaccine Production via Involuntary Technology Transfer

By Dr. Olga Gurgula

This policy brief explains that the currently discussed proposals at the WTO related to increasing the production of COVID-19 vaccines, including the EU proposal to clarify the use of compulsory licensing and the submission by South Africa and India on the intellectual property (IP) waiver, require complementary mechanisms to rapidly improve the production of COVID-19 vaccines that are urgently needed today. The key problem is that to accelerate the manufac- ture of COVID-19 vaccines, access to knowledge and know-how, that are protected by trade secrets owned by several pharmaceutical companies, is required. It is therefore important that governments implement an additional mechanism of compulsory licensing of trade secrets that would allow an involuntary transfer of COVID-19 vaccine technologies. Such a mechanism would be compliant with the TRIPS Agreement and relevant whether the TRIPS waiver is adopted or not agreed upon. While this mechanism must provide full access to the information necessary to manufacture the vaccines in question, it must also ensure the protection of the transferred trade secrets.

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Policy Brief 94, Setembro de 2021

O papel dos tribunais na implementação das flexibilidades do TRIPS: Supremo Tribunal Federal (STF) do Brasil declara inconstitucionais as extensões automáticas de prazos de patentes

Por Vitor Henrique Pinto Ido

Este policy brief traz uma contextualização, um resumo e uma análise da decisão do Supremo Tribunal Federal do Brasil, de 6 de maio de 2021, que declarou inconstitucionais as extensões automáticas de prazos de patentes, revogando o Artigo 40, Parágrafo Único, da Lei de Propriedade Industrial do Brasil, de 1996. Conclui-se que esta é uma decisão histórica que contribui para a implementação de um regime de patentes mais equilibrado no Brasil, com impacto positivo no acesso a medicamentos no país. É um precedente importante no que se refere ao papel que os tribunais podem desempenhar na definição dos contornos da proteção à propriedade intelectual e das flexibilidades do Acordo TRIPS.

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WTO Public Forum 2021 Working Session: The Future of the TRIPS Agreement Post COVID-19

Working Session at the WTO Public Forum 2021: The Future of the TRIPS Agreement Post COVID-19

Wednesday, 29 September 2021
16h30 –17h30 CET

Disciplines on intellectual property protection are part of the multilateral trade system through the WTO TRIPS Agreement. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to bear again the tension between the protection of intellectual property rights and public health, which had been addressed in 2001 through the Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public health. Having in view the TRIPS flexibilities, this session will discuss the role of interpretation, temporary waivers and amendments in dealing with such tension and what further actions could be taken under the WTO rules in order to promote access to medical products for all.

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South Centre Study, September 2021

Patenting of Plants and Exceptions to Exclusive Rights: Lessons from European Law

Biotechnology has increased the use of patent law to protect the outcomes of plant breeding. While the TRIPS Agreement allows countries to exclude the patentability of plants and essentially biological processes to obtain them, many developing countries are granting patents on plants and plant components, such as seeds, cells, and genes. These patents can limit access to plant materials for further research and breeding and prevent farmers from saving and re-using seeds that incorporate patented materials. This study shows how European legislation has sought to strike a balance between the protection of plant-related inventions and the rights of breeders and farmers through the introduction of specific exceptions to patent rights and discusses what lessons can be drawn for developing countries.

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Research Paper 134, September 2021

Restructuring the Global Vaccine Industry

By Felix Lobo

The purpose of this report is to analyse the vaccines industry under the focus of Industrial Economics as an input for the design of the pertinent instruments to promote development, manufacturing and distribution of vaccines against SARS-CoV-2 in sufficient amounts to immunize all countries as soon as possible. We also need to be prepared for future emerging infectious diseases with the potential of global expansion.

The report shows that the vaccines industry is – and has been for a long time – far away from the competitive market paradigm with notorious market failures. As a result, the industry is underperforming with shortages and stockouts, exit of firms from the industry, underinvestment in research and development (R&D) and manufacturing, even an “anaemic development pipeline”, all signs of market failure.

After a brief review of policies implemented to tackle these problems we conclude that after the COVID-19 pandemic there is a need to implement a profound overhauling of the industry and to fundamentally reformulate and extend global public policies to stimulate R&D, manufacturing, distribution and access.

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UNDP Publication on examination of patent applications relating to pharmaceuticals, June 2016

Guidelines for the examination of patent applications relating to pharmaceuticals

By Carlos M. Correa

This document represents a follow-up to an earlier document, Guidelines for the Examination of Pharmaceutical Patents: Developing a Public Health Perspective, which was published in 2007 as a working paper by the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD), the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

The present document takes into account developments since the publication of the ICTSD-UNCTAD-WHO working paper in 2007. It includes new examples of patent applications and/or grants, and analysis of and references to the initiatives of a number of countries that have adopted laws and/or policies that seek to factor in public health considerations in the examination of patent applications.

With this document, the aim is to provide guidance for the development or revision of guidelines on patent examination processes in developing countries in response to concerns about the rise of patent numbers in the pharmaceutical sector. For this purpose, a number of recommendations are made with regard to the examination of the patentability of applications relating to pharmaceutical products and processes.

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