Compulsory Licenses

Research Paper 169, 8 November 2022

The WTO TRIPS Decision on COVID-19 Vaccines: What is Needed to Implement it?

By Carlos M. Correa and Nirmalya Syam

The 12th WTO Ministerial Conference adopted a Ministerial Decision on the TRIPS Agreement on 17 June 2022. This partially concluded almost two years of protracted discussions in response to a proposal by India and South Africa for a waiver from certain obligations under the TRIPS Agreement for health products and technologies for the prevention, treatment and containment of COVID-19. The adopted Decision only waives the obligation under article 31 (f) of the TRIPS Agreement. Developing country WTO members are now allowed to export any proportion of vaccines, including ingredients and processes, necessary for the COVID-19 pandemic that are manufactured under a compulsory license or government use authorization to other developing countries. It also contains some clarifications of relevant TRIPS provisions, while introducing a number of conditionalities that are not present in the TRIPS Agreement. This paper examines the object and scope of the Decision, the requirements established for its use, and the required actions to be taken by WTO members to implement it.

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Research Paper 168, 28 October 2022

TRIPS Flexibilities and Access to Medicines: An Evaluation of Barriers to Employing Compulsory Licenses for Patented Pharmaceuticals at the WTO

By Anna S.Y. Wong, Clarke B. Cole, Jillian C. Kohler

Under Articles 31 and 31bis of the TRIPS Agreement, WTO members may validly sanction the use of a patented invention without the patent owner’s authorization by issuing a compulsory license (CL). In the pharmaceuticals space, governments have historically employed compulsory licenses to compel originator manufacturers to license their patents to generic manufacturers before patent expiry, increasing the supply and reducing the price of patented pharmaceuticals domestically.

This paper evaluates the three primary barriers to employing compulsory licenses for pharmaceuticals underscored by members during TRIPS waiver discussions at the WTO: (1) a lack of enabling domestic legislation, (2) a lack of domestic manufacturing capacity coupled with an unworkable Article 31bis importation system, and (3) consistent political pressure from other members to refrain from issuing compulsory licenses. A survey of members’ domestic compulsory license legislation finds that virtually all members have enacted enabling legislation under Article 31 for the issuance of compulsory licenses to supply their local markets. However, implementation of Article 31bis is limited by a lack of enabling compulsory license export legislation, streamlined administrative processes, or both across all members, preventing members lacking domestic manufacturing capacity from importing pharmaceuticals. An analysis of USTR Special 301 Reports from 1994-2021 further reveals that countries have consistently been placed on the Special 301 Report Priority Watch List for issuing pharmaceutical compulsory licenses, with instances as recent as 2020. As such, general reluctance by members to issue compulsory licenses due to overt political pressure through the Special 301 Report is likely warranted. These results highlight a range of barriers preventing the full use of compulsory licenses for pharmaceuticals under the current Article 31 and 31bis framework, with the effects disproportionately borne by member states lacking domestic manufacturing capacity.

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Research Paper 166, 6 October 2022

Lessons From India’s Implementation of Doha Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health

By Nanditta Batra

The major bone of contention between the developed and developing countries in the TRIPS negotiations was patents for pharmaceuticals. The US-led developed countries bloc argued in favour of patents for pharmaceuticals amidst opposition from Brazil, India and other countries. Ample evidence, including patented AZT for HIV/AIDS treatment, showed that patents could make life saving drugs prohibitively expensive. Notwithstanding the effect of patents on access to medicines, Article 27 of the TRIPS Agreement ordained patents for inventions “in all fields of technology”. While the genie was out of the bottle in the form of patents for pharmaceuticals, the developing countries were able to extract some procedural and substantive flexibilities like transition period, parallel importation and compulsory licensing to leverage the IP system to further public health. However, there was uncertainty with respect to the interpretation of TRIPS agreement, scope of the flexibilities and Member States’ rights to use them. It is in this background that the historic Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health assumed importance as it reaffirmed the rights of the Member States to take measures to protect public health, reconciled the interpretative tensions in the text of TRIPS Agreement and clarified the scope of some of the flexibilities and attempts to find solutions to the problems faced by countries that do not have sufficient manufacturing facilities. The Declaration which was initially dismissed by some scholars as “non-binding,” “soft law” has been held by WTO Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) to constitute a “subsequent agreement” which must be followed in interpreting the provisions of TRIPS Agreement (Australia-Tobacco Plain Packaging Case).

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Research Paper 158, 15 June 2022

Twenty Years After Doha: An Analysis of the Use of the TRIPS Agreement’s Public Health Flexibilities in India

By Muhammad Zaheer Abbas, PhD  

The World Trade Organization (WTO) linked intellectual property protection with trade. The WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS Agreement), however, included a number of public health flexibilities in order to provide latitude to the Member States to tailor their national patent laws to fit their individual needs. In 2001, the Doha Declaration further clarified and reaffirmed the existing TRIPS flexibilities. This paper argues that India has taken the lead role in enacting the TRIPS Agreement’s substantive and procedural patent flexibilities by introducing unique legislative measures to deal with the problem of access to medicines. This article evaluates India’s use of section 3(d) as a subject matter exclusivity provision. It examines constitutional validity and TRIPS compliance of section 3(d). It also evaluates India’s use of the flexibility to define the term “inventive step”. Moreover, this article evaluates India’s use of compulsory licensing, the most notable exception to patent rights provided under the TRIPS Agreement. This empirical study is important in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has once again highlighted the same public health issues that the Doha Declaration sought to address twenty years ago.

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Policy Brief 110, 5 May 2022

Analysis of the Outcome Text of the Informal Quadrilateral Discussions on the TRIPS COVID-19 Waiver

By Carlos M. Correa and Nirmalya Syam

Almost one  and a half years after the proposal for a waiver of certain provisions of the TRIPS Agreement regarding health technologies for COVID-19 was proposed by India and South Africa with the support of the majority of WTO Members, the TRIPS Council has been unable to reach consensus on the proposed waiver or engage in text negotiations. In this context, the TRIPS Council agreed to suspend the discussions to allow the possibility of some solution to emerge from informal high-level consultations between the European Union, the United States of America, India and South Africa. Recently, the WTO Director-General transmitted the outcome of the informal consultations along with a draft text to the TRIPS Council. In this context, this policy brief analyzes the elements of the draft text that has been transmitted to the TRIPS Council. The proposed solution, which offers clarifications and limited waivers on some of the provisions governing compulsory licenses on patents relating to vaccines, reflects developed countries’ strong opposition to the broader waiver sought by the proponents to rapidly expand manufacturing capacity and the supply of health products needed to address the pandemic.

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SouthViews No. 231, 29 November 2021

Waive IP Rights & Save Lives

By Srividhya Ragavan

In October of 2020, when India and South Africa proposed a waiver from certain provisions of the TRIPS agreement, it was meant to increase local manufacturing capacity in these countries. The waiver was proposed as a tool to kick-start prevention, containment and treatment of COVID-19. While there is an imminent need to meet a growing supply-demand gap for all medical products, COVID-19 related products are urgently required in poorer nations to contain the pandemic. The waiver has an additional role to play in the larger trade schema. In enabling vaccination of populations across the globe, the waiver would be critical to normalize global trade. The paper below captures the benefits of the waiver and compares it with the existing flexibilities under the trade regime, being compulsory licensing.

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Policy Brief 107, November 2021

The Doha Ministerial Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health on its Twentieth Anniversary

By Nirmalya Syam, Viviana Munoz, Carlos M. Correa and Vitor Ido

This Policy Brief reviews the role of the Doha Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health in the twenty years since its adoption. It finds that the Doha Declaration has contributed to advance the use of the TRIPS flexibilities to promote public health and should be considered an important subsequent agreement to the TRIPS Agreement, despite the continuing challenges for WTO members to implement the TRIPS flexibilities in full. This brief also analyses the extent to which the Paragraph 6 System that became an amendment of the TRIPS Agreement as a new article 31 bis, pursuant to the Doha Declaration, has facilitated access to medicines and vaccines for countries with none or insufficient pharmaceutical manufacturing capacity. It finds that the system to date has not lived up to its promise. The Policy Brief recommends that WTO members assess and identify the challenges for the full use of the TRIPS flexibilities to promote public health, and advances that supplementary tools will need to be designed to never again allow such inequity in access to life saving vaccines and treatments as in the present COVID-19 pandemic.

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Research Paper 141, November 2021

Utilising Public Health Flexibilities in the Era of COVID-19: An Analysis of Intellectual Property Regulation in the OAPI and MENA Regions

By Yousuf A Vawda and Bonginkosi Shozi

The paper explores the unique approaches to IP protection in the countries belonging to the Organisation Africaine de la Propriété Intellectuelle/African Intellectual Property Organization (OAPI) and the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) regions; the limited extent to which legal and policy frameworks with regard to TRIPS flexibilities have been adopted and implemented in pursuit of access to medicines in those countries; and makes recommendations in order to optimise the use of the flexibilities in advancing public health objectives. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, the impact of IP rights on access, and some approaches to countering the challenges to access are also discussed.

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STATEMENT ON THE DOHA DECLARATION ON TRIPS AND PUBLIC HEALTH ON ITS 20TH ANNIVERSARY, 14 November 2021

STATEMENT BY THE SOUTH CENTRE ON THE WTO DOHA MINISTERIAL DECLARATION ON TRIPS AND PUBLIC HEALTH ON ITS TWENTIETH ANNIVERSARY

Twenty years since its adoption on this day, the WTO Doha Declaration on TRIPS & Public Health has helped to advance TRIPS flexibilities in national laws, judgements, panel reports and FTAs. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed significant challenges to the full use of TRIPS flexibilities that should be addressed by WTO Members.

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Book by the South Centre, 2021

Access to Medicines and Vaccines: Implementing Flexibilities Under Intellectual Property Law

Description:

This book is an outcome of a partnership between the Max Planck Institute (MPI) for Innovation and Competition and the South Centre, which jointly organized a Global Forum on Intellectual Property, Access to Medicine and Innovation in Munich on 9– 10 December 2019.

This book examines topics of particular relevance for shaping intellectual property regimes that take into account public health concerns. It provides not only deep analyses but options for the interpretation of existing regulations or the adoption of new legislation that, being consistent with the TRIPS Agreement, can allow the judiciary and policy makers to take such concerns into account. In different chapters, the book addresses various dimensions of the flexibilities allowed under the TRIPS Agreement. Although there is a significant literature and statements on the subject, such as the ‘Declaration on Patent Protection. Regulatory Sovereignty under TRIPS’ elaborated under the auspices of the MPI, the book contains new reflections and examines recent developments in case law and legislation.

The covered issues include how the TRIPS Agreement can be interpreted to implement its flexibilities, the use of competition law to promote access to medicines, the role of cooperation in the examination of patent applications, patentability requirements, the impact of TRIPS plus provisions (such as the linkage between patents and drug regulatory approvals), the patentability in the area of CRISPR genome editing technologies, as well as an analysis of the scope of exceptions and limitations to exclusive rights provided for by the Agreement, such as the exhaustion of rights and parallel imports, compulsory licenses, the ‘Bolar exemption’, and procedural mechanisms like pre-grant oppositions. The implications of the protection of test data are also examined.

While celebrating the opportunity of working together in organizing the Global Forum, we hope that this book will assist policy makers and judges and provide new inputs for academic research. While, as mentioned, there is a differentiated impact of intellectual property rights depending on the level of development of the country where it applies, the reconciliation of such rights with public health interests, particularly in relation to access to medicines, is a matter of concern for all countries.

Editors: Carlos M. Correa and Reto M. Hilty

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Policy Brief 104, October 2021

Compulsory licensing vs. the IP waiver: what is the best way to end the COVID-19 pandemic?

By Olga Gurgula

This policy brief examines the currently discussed proposals at the World Trade Organization (WTO) that aim to resolve the problem of the production shortages of COVID-19 vaccines. This includes the two key submissions, i.e. the proposal by South Africa and India on the Intellectual Property (IP) waiver, partially supported by the United States (US), and the European Union (EU) proposal to clarify the use of compulsory licensing. While each of these mechanisms may help to improve the production of COVID-19 vaccines to various degrees, there is intense debate about which of these proposals is the most effective. This policy brief outlines the strengths and weaknesses of each of them with a view to informing the policy decisions by WTO Members on the best way to promptly accelerate the vaccine production that is urgently needed today. It concludes that the proposed IP waiver is a more effective solution for addressing the current emergency.

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Book by the South Centre, 2021

Uso Público No Comercial y Licencias Obligatorias en América Latina: Estado de Situación

Descripción:

Este libro examina cómo han sido regulados en el derecho latinoamericano el uso público no comercial y las licencias obligatorias de patentes de invención, una de las importantes flexibilidades en el marco del acuerdo sobre propiedad intelectual de la Organización Mundial de Comercio. Igualmente, indaga y compendia las experiencias registradas en cuanto al uso efectivo de esos instrumentos, el que no se agota en el ámbito de la salud pública, si bien han sido especialmente utilizados tanto por países desarrollados como en desarrollo para facilitar el acceso a medicamentos, incluso en el contexto de la pandemia del COVID-19.

Autor: Guillermo Vidaurreta es Abogado de la Universidad de Buenos Aires, Magister en Propiedad Intelectual por FLACSO – Argentina. Profesor de la Universidad de Buenos Aires y FLACSO – Argentina. Investigador principal y subdirector del Centro de Estudios Interdisciplinarios de Derecho Industrial y Económico de la Facultad de Derecho de la UBA (CEIDIE).

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