Free Trade Agreements (FTAs)

Research Paper 130, April 2021

Misappropriation of Genetic Resources and Associated Traditional Knowledge: Challenges Posed by Intellectual Property and Genetic Sequence Information

By Nirmalya Syam and Thamara Romero

Improper acquisition of genetic resources (GRs) and associated traditional knowledge (TK) without prior informed consent and on mutually agreed terms, in accordance with national laws of the country providing the GR and associated TK, as well as without any fair and equitable sharing of the benefits derived from their utilization, has been a significant concern for developing countries. Intellectual property (IP) rights can serve as one of the means of such misappropriation. One of the mechanisms sought by developing countries to prevent it consists in the establishment of an effective multilateral legal mechanism for defensive protection against misappropriation, primarily through the introduction of a mandatory disclosure requirement about the source and country of origin of such resources in intellectual property right (IPR) applications. These negotiations have been taking place in different fora. However, there is an increased sense of frustration due to the lack of progress in achieving consensus during the last twenty years. Meanwhile, new modes of misappropriation of GRs are evolving through the use of genetic sequence information and data of GRs, and by applying technological developments in synthetic biology. This paper discusses the use of IP and genetic sequence information and data as modes of misappropriation of GRs and associated TK and the deficits of the current international legal framework in preventing such misappropriation. This paper also maps the state of play of the ongoing negotiations in the context of these issues in different fora, and, in conclusion, proposes possible alternative approaches for addressing these pressing issues at the multilateral level.

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Research Paper 128, February 2021

Intellectual Property in the EU–MERCOSUR FTA: A Brief Review of the Negotiating Outcomes of a Long-Awaited Agreement

Roxana Blasetti

In collaboration with Juan I. Correa

This paper provides a first glance at the Intellectual Property Chapter of the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR) and the European Union (EU). It is not intended to provide an exhaustive analysis of the commitments involved but rather to briefly review the scope of intellectual property in the bi-regional negotiations, which took more than 20 years and ended in June 2019 with an “agreement in principle.” It also aims to put the Chapter into context with the whole commitments covered by the FTA and, finally, to highlight its most relevant aspects.

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South Centre Semester Report, July-December 2020

South Centre Semester Report, July-December 2020

This Semester Report summarizes the activities undertaken by the South Centre during the period 1st July to 31 December 2020. It is intended to provide information, organized by themes, about recent developments in the areas covered by the Centre’s Work Program, meetings organized or co-organized by the Centre to examine particular issues or provide analytical support for negotiations taking place in various international fora, and conferences and other meetings where the Centre has participated. It also informs about publications made.

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Research Paper 127, December 2020

Revisiting the Question of Extending the Limits of Protection of Pharmaceutical Patents and Data Outside the EU – The Need to Rebalance

By Daniel Opoku Acquah

The European Union (EU) has instituted internal and external measures aimed at protecting and enforcing intellectual property rights. In the area of pharmaceutical patents, the Union has also sought to protect its industries through patent term extension and data exclusivity. Recent EU free trade agreements (FTAs) with developing countries contain chapters on intellectual property that extend patent terms and data exclusivity for pharmaceutical products. Such acts further prolong the lifespan of protection given to existing products and limit generic market entry. I identify the issue as one of “cross-pollination” of laws and argue that since similar laws exist in the internal regime of the EU, incorporating them into the EU would not be too technically difficult. However, to the extent that this regime is simulated in developing countries, implementation would damage the health sectors and economies of these countries. I therefore propose that developing countries should not be forced to adopt such laws through FTAs. If they are forced to adopt the laws after all, there should be a compulsory inclusion of (1) a clause on transitional arrangements for developing countries specific to intellectual property; (2) a clause that clearly links the objectives for intellectual property protection and enforcement (in this context, patent term extension and data exclusivity) to balance the promotion of technological innovation with access to medicines; and (3) a clause on Bolar exemption and a manufacturing waiver.

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South Centre Semester Report, January-June 2020

South Centre Semester Report, 1 January to 30 June 2020

This Semester Report summarizes the activities undertaken by the South Centre during the period 1st January to 30 June 2020. It is intended to provide information, organized by themes, about recent developments in the areas covered by the Centre’s Work Program, meetings organized or co-organized by the Centre to examine particular issues or provide analytical support for negotiations taking place in various international fora, and conferences and other meetings where the Centre has participated. It also informs about publications made.

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Documento de Investigación 110, Mayo 2020

Estudio Preliminar del Capítulo Sobre Propiedad Intelectual del Acuerdo MERCOSUR – UE

Por Alejandra Aoun, Alejo Barrenechea, Roxana Blasetti, Martín Cortese,Gabriel Gette, Nicolás Hermida, Jorge Kors, Vanesa Lowenstein, Guillermo Vidaurreta

El presente documento realiza un estudio preliminar del capítulo XX relativo a propiedad intelectual del Acuerdo MERCOSUR – UE de libre comercio, MERCOSUR logró en este capítulo que la UE hiciera tabla rasa respecto de los anteriores acuerdos de libre comercio. Se arribó a un resultado equilibrado, que refleja las concesiones de ambas partes.

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Research Paper 108, April 2020

Public Health and Plain Packaging of Tobacco: An Intellectual Property Perspective

By Thamara Romero

In 2018, a World Trade Organization (WTO) Panel ruled that plain packaging of tobacco products was consistent with Australia’s obligations under the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) and was in the interest of public health. Plain packaging restricts the use of logos, colours and brand images to reduce the demand for and consumption of tobacco products by diminishing their advertising appeal. This paper discusses the intellectual property aspects triggered by the implementation of plain packaging, examines the best practices for its implementation and provides analysis of Australia’s case from the public health perspective. It also highlights the main arguments used in the dispute against Australia and provides practical guidance for WTO Members on implementing measures to protect public health.

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Policy Brief 76, April 2020

Evolution of Data Exclusivity for Pharmaceuticals in Free Trade Agreements

By Wael Armouti

Free trade agreements (FTAs) introduce higher intellectual property (IP) protection than those established in the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS-plus provisions) that deprive the parties from benefits of the use of flexibilities found in the TRIPS Agreement to protect public health. One such TRIPS-plus requirement is that of data exclusivity. It establishes that the government should provide an exclusivity period for the test data developed by the originator company, on the grounds of an incentive rationale and considerations of fairness. The negative impact of the data exclusivity approach in developing countries means that the entry of cheap generic products is delayed, even under a compulsory license, which will affect access to affordable medicines. Countries that have already signed the FTAs can mitigate its effects on public health by limiting the scope of and providing exceptions to data exclusivity in national legislation.

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Book by the South Centre, 2020

Intellectual Property, Human Rights and Access To Medicines: A Selected and Annotated Bibliography (3rd Edition)

About the Book:

The South Centre seeks to provide appropriate technical assistance and country support to developing countries, within comprehensive and coherent national IP strategies to promote implementation of the TRIPS Agreement that is consistent with the protection of public health and the promotion of access to medicines. This selected and annotated bibliography has been prepared to assist developing countries to implement IP policies and regulations consistent with development goals and public health principles. The growing volume of literature on the issue of IP, R&D, human rights and access to medicines can help developing countries to find the opportunities and room for manoeuvre to protect their citizens from the unhealthy environment created by international trade rules. This bibliography is not an exhaustive list but it highlights some of the most pertinent works from the South views and perspectives. The selected references are a valuable instrument for those interested in promoting universal access to medical innovation.

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Policy Brief 72, February 2020

US-China trade deal: preliminary analysis of the text from WTO perspective  

By Peter Lunenborg

The long-awaited ‘Phase 1’ trade deal between the United States and China, officially termed the ‘Economic and Trade Agreement between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of the People’s Republic of China’, was signed on 15 January 2020. It will enter into force on Valentine’s Day, on Friday, 14 February 2020.  This deal is a result of US exercise of political power and unilateral World Trade Organization (WTO)-inconsistent tariffs in order to extract trade concessions, an expression of the most pure protectionism that the WTO is supposed to prevent. Nevertheless, the WTO was unhelpful in addressing the US economic aggression against China. This failure to protect a Member from illegitimate unilateral measures is, perhaps, one of the most significant manifestations of the often-mentioned ‘crisis’ of the WTO, and actually is one of the subjects on which the proposed ‘reform’ of the organization should focus.

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South Centre Quarterly Report, October-December 2019

South Centre Quarterly Report, 1 October to 31 December 2019

This Quarterly Report summarizes the activities undertaken by the South Centre during the period 1st October to 31 December 2019. It is intended to provide information, organized by themes, about recent developments in the areas covered by the Centre’s Work Program, meetings organized or co-organized by the Centre to examine particular issues or provide analytical support for negotiations taking place in various international fora, and conferences and other meetings where the Centre has participated. It also informs about publications made and publication/websites/social media metrics.

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Research Paper 101, December 2019

Second Medical Use Patents – Legal Treatment and Public Health Issues

By Clara Ducimetière

This paper attempts to give an overview of the debate surrounding the patentability of new therapeutic uses for known active ingredients, both in developed and developing countries. After close scrutiny of international patentability standards, this paper concludes that second medical uses do not qualify per se for patent protection and have only been protected in several jurisdictions by means of a legal fiction. The increasing acceptance of second medical use patents seems to result from strategic patent filing from pharmaceutical companies to extend the life of existing patents, justified mainly for financial reasons. However, these practices have a detrimental impact on generic competition and, hence, on the access to medicines and the public health, in particular in developing countries. Therefore, this paper argues that a sound patent policy in line with public health objectives, in particular, an enhanced access to medicines, should not allow for the grant of second medical use patents.

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