Flexibilities

SC Statement to the WIPO Assemblies, 18 July 2022

Statement by the South Centre to the 2022 Assemblies of the Member States of WIPO

The South Centre is the intergovernmental organization of developing countries based in Geneva that supports developing countries’ efforts to build up a fair and inclusive multilateral system conducive to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). We are of the view that a central objective of World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) as part of the United Nations (UN) UN system should be to support the achievement of such goals through the promotion of a balanced international intellectual property (IP) system that reflects the interests of countries at different levels of economic and technological development, and in line with the WIPO Development Agenda.

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Comments on Draft Annotated Outline of WHO Convention, Agreement or Other International Instrument on Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness & Response, 24 June 2022

South Centre Comments on the Draft Annotated Outline of a WHO Convention, Agreement or Other International Instrument on Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness and Response

24 June 2022

The South Centre welcomes the opportunity to provide comments on the draft annotated outline of a WHO convention, agreement or other international instrument on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response. Comments are provided with respect to the process and the content.

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SC Statement – TRIPS waiver, 21 June 2022

TRIPS WAIVER: AN INSUFFICIENT MULTILATERAL RESPONSE. TRIPS-CONSISTENT NATIONAL ACTIONS ARE CALLED FOR

After almost 20 months from the submission of a “TRIPS waiver” request by India and South Africa, co-sponsored by 65 WTO member States (and supported by more than 100 WTO Members), a “Ministerial Decision on the TRIPS Agreement” (WT/MIN(22)/W/15/Rev.2) (‘the Decision’) was belatedly adopted by the 12th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization on 17 June 2022.

This Decision does recognize that, as argued by developing countries and a large number of organizations and academics, intellectual property (IP) poses obstacles for the expansion of manufacturing capacity and timely access to health products and technologies to respond to COVID-19. The response to the pandemic required a rapid increase in the supply of countermeasures, while technology holders refused to share their technologies.

Not only developed countries successfully deviated the negotiations towards an outcome different from what was pursued by developing countries’ diplomats; the process for its adoption did not allow for the full and informed participation of the latter. The process leading to the Decision confirms the need to fully use the TRIPS flexibilities to address emergency and other situations where public health and other public interests are at stake, and to review the current international IP regime (including article 31bis of the TRIPS Agreement) to accelerate the sharing of technology, including know-how.

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SouthViews No. 238, 20 June 2022

Doha Twenty Years On – Has The Promise Been Betrayed?

By Yousuf Vawda and Bonginkosi Shozi

The Doha Declaration’s twentieth anniversary in November 2021 has taken place in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. The experience of the past two years has demonstrated that the very factors that necessitated the Declaration—the problems of inequitable access to medicines and other health technologies for the world’s poor—continue to plague us.

Has the promise of the Doha Declaration been betrayed? In this contribution, we critically engage with this question, focusing our appraisal on whether the Doha Declaration has been successful in fulfilling its commitments to: (a) advancing access to health; (b) equity and fairness in the relations between WTO Members States; and (c) recognising perspectives from the developing world in formulating IP policy. Ultimately, we conclude that the promise of the Doha Declaration has failed to materialise.

There are many reasons for this. For instance, developed country governments have intentionally undermined the Declaration by their insistence on inserting more onerous TRIPS-plus provisions in free trade agreements and economic partnership agreements, which decimate the limited flexibilities permitted by the TRIPS Agreement. And where countries have sought to use such flexibilities, they have been assailed by an over-litigious pharmaceutical industry, and threats by governments such as the US 301 Watch List. For these reasons, we argue for the need for alternative paradigms to challenge Western hegemony and norms regarding IP and other trade-related issues, and for effectively challenging this through the application of a “decoloniality” approach.

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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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Research Paper 152, 21 April 2022

An Examination of Selected Public Health Exceptions in Asian Patent Laws 

By Kiyoshi Adachi  

This study examines the variations within Asia of two exceptions to patent rights that are commonly justified under Article 30 of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (the TRIPS Agreement), namely the research and experimentation exception and the regulatory review (or “Bolar”) exception. Both these exceptions are important in the context of the 2001 Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health insofar as they are designed to provide flexibility to protect public health and support countries’ overall scientific and technological aspirations. The study examines, from a comparative perspective, examples of these respective exceptions in patent legislation in South, Southeast and East Asia, and identifies peculiarities in the variations among countries in these sub-regions.

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Documento de Investigación 147, 28 de febrero de 2022

¿Podrán las negociaciones en la organización mundial de la salud resultar en un marco justo para la prevención, la preparación y la respuesta ante pandemias como bienes públicos globales?

Por Viviana Muñoz Tellez

Los Estados miembros de la OMS, tras haber acordado los objetivos de avanzar equidad y solidaridad para la futura prevención, preparación y respuesta a la pandemia, ahora deben ponerlos en práctica. Este documento avanza sugerencias para las discusiones en los procesos en curso de la OMS de 1) el examen de las recomendaciones que está revisando el Grupo de Trabajo sobre el Fortalecimiento de la Preparación y la Respuesta de la OMS a las Emergencias Sanitarias, 2) la consideración de posibles enmiendas al Reglamento Sanitario Internacional (RSI) de 2005, y 3) la elaboración de un proyecto de texto para un instrumento internacional sobre la preparación y la respuesta ante una pandemia.

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Document de Recherche 147, 28 février 2022

Les négociations au sein de l’Organisation mondiale de la santé peuvent-elles aboutir à un cadre juste pour la prévention, la préparation et la riposte aux pandémies en tant que bien public mondial?

Par Viviana Muñoz Tellez

Ce document avance que les États membres de l’OMS, ayant accepté de promouvoir des objectifs d’équité et de solidarité pour la prévention, la préparation et la riposte futures aux pandémies, doivent maintenant les mettre en œuvre. Le document propose des suggestions pour les processus en cours à l’OMS concernant : 1) l’examen des recommandations en cours de révision par le Groupe de travail sur le renforcement de la préparation et de la riposte de l’OMS aux urgences sanitaires, 2) l’examen des amendements potentiels au Règlement sanitaire international (RSI) 2005, et 3) l’élaboration d’un projet de texte pour un instrument international sur la préparation et la riposte aux pandémies.

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Research Paper 147, 28 February 2022

Can Negotiations at the World Health Organization Lead to a Just Framework for the Prevention, Preparedness and Response to Pandemics as Global Public Goods?

By Viviana Muñoz Tellez

This paper advances that WHO Member States, having agreed to the objectives of advancing equity and solidarity for future pandemic prevention, preparedness and response, now must operationalize these. The paper offers suggestions for the ongoing WHO processes of: 1) review of recommendations under examination by the Working Group on Strengthening WHO Preparedness and Response to Health Emergencies, 2) consideration of potential amendments to the International Health Regulations (IHR) 2005, and 3) elaboration of a draft text for an international instrument on pandemic preparedness and response.

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Research Paper 146, 16 February 2022

A Review of WTO Disputes on TRIPS: Implications for Use of Flexibilities for Public Health   

By Nirmalya Syam

The use of TRIPS flexibilities by WTO members involves interpretation of the obligations under TRIPS which can be challenged under the WTO dispute settlement system. Mutually agreed solutions, panel or Appellate Body decisions adopted in such disputes can thus impact the scope of TRIPS flexibilities to address, among others, public health objectives. This paper explores how the WTO dispute settlement system applies to disputes under TRIPS, and reviews the outcomes of the disputes relating to the implementation of TRIPS obligations in the context of pharmaceutical products. The paper points to both systemic and substantive concerns arising from the application of the dispute settlement system to disputes under TRIPS. It finds that the dispute settlement system is not aligned to the unique nature of the TRIPS Agreement in the WTO as an agreement that creates positive obligations, and consequently how jurisprudence arising under disputes concerning other covered agreements having negative obligations, have led panels and Appellate Bodies to adopt narrow interpretations of the scope of TRIPS flexibilities in some of the few disputes arising under the TRIPS Agreement. Moreover, mutually agreed settlements adopted in the context of some of the disputes arising under TRIPS have also led to the adoption of TRIPS plus standards, limiting the scope of TRIPS flexibilities. However, in a recent decision, the WTO panel has also relied on the Doha Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health as a subsequent agreement to guide the interpretation of its provisions. In this context, the paper advances some suggestions to address the systemic and substantive issues arising from the application of the dispute settlement system to the TRIPS Agreement.

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South Centre Semester Report, July – December 2021

South Centre Semester Report, July – December 2021

The South Centre undertakes policy-oriented research on issues, as defined in its Work Program (https://www.southcentre.int/work-program/), that are relevant to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. It supports the countries of the South to effectively participate in negotiating processes in order to build up a multilateral system that supports and does not undermine development efforts. It also provides policy and technical advice and capacity building in support of countries and institutions of the South. Catalogues of the publications of the Centre can be found at https://www.southcentre.int/publications-catalogues/.

The South Centre expands its reach and impact by leveraging cooperation with other international organizations, research institutions, academia and civil society.

This Semester Report is an account of how the South Centre’s Secretariat has fulfilled the Centre’s mission through the different workstreams for the period July – December 2021.

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Research Paper 144, 27 January 2022

A TRIPS-COVID Waiver and Overlapping Commitments to Protect Intellectual Property Rights Under International IP and Investment Agreements

by Henning Grosse Ruse-Khan and Federica Paddeu

This paper considers legal implications that are likely to emerge from the implementation of a TRIPS Waiver decision. Assuming that a Waiver is adopted in the form presented in the May 2021 proposal by South Africa and India et al, we review the interaction between the Waiver and other commitments to protect IP rights under international IP and investment treaties. Our principal research question is to analyze whether domestic measures implementing the Waiver are compatible with the implementing State’s other obligations to protect IP rights established under multilateral IP treaties, IP and Investment Chapters of FTAs as well as BITs. In light of typical examples for such overlapping commitments, we first focus on (1) defences directly affecting compatibility with these treaty commitments (here referred to as ‘internal’ defences). In a second part, we review (2) potential defences under general international law that may serve to justify (in other words, to preclude the wrongfulness of) such measures. We conclude that often internal and/or general defences will operate to support the implementation of the Waiver despite overlapping commitments in international IP and investment law. This conclusion is reinforced by a purpose-oriented understanding of the TRIPS Waiver as authorizing measures necessary to achieve the goal of “unimpeded, timely and secure access” for all to covered medical technologies “for the prevention, treatment or containment of COVID-19”.

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