Innovation

SouthViews No. 269, 16 July 2024

UNGA adopts first resolution on Artificial Intelligence

By Viviana Munoz Tellez

The United Nations recently approved a first resolution on Artificial Intelligence (AI). It contains a number of important principles and objectives that if achieved can help to leverage the potential of AI systems in all countries and control their risks. However, issues of critical importance for developing countries, such as bridging the digital divide in the use of AI, capacity building, ethics, bias and unfair data exploitation, are not adequately covered.

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SouthViews No. 268, 12 July 2024

A New World – Without Patents

By Calixto Salomão Filho

Patent law has a profound impact on the social, environmental, and economic dynamics of societies. This commentary is a critical academic perspective on the theoretical underpinnings of patent law.

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Research Paper 203, 11 July 2024

The Vaccine Industry After the COVID-19 Pandemic: An International Perspective

By Felix Lobo

The purpose of this report is to analyze the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the vaccine industry from an international perspective. The objective is to learn from the experience and contribute to the design of better tools for future vaccine development and manufacturing, as we must be prepared for future emerging infectious diseases with the potential for global expansion. This industry makes fundamental contributions to global social welfare, but from a business point of view it is complex and difficult to manage, and from an economic point of view it is an industry that does not fit the paradigm of competitive market efficiency with notorious market failures.

We examine the impact of the pandemic on innovation and the scientific, technological and industrial development of vaccines and find that certain elements of the industry’s structure have changed, while others have remained. We also summarize the lessons learned from the deployment of some public policies to boost supply and drive demand, paying particular attention to the inequity in the global distribution of vaccines and to the COVAX program. We conclude that some of the policies have been very effective, while others have not fully achieved their objectives. From the achievements and limitations, lessons can be drawn for the reformulation and expansion of global public policies that would stimulate R&D, manufacturing, distribution and access.

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Research Paper 197, 28 May 2024

Compulsory Licensing as a Remedy Against Excessive Pricing of Life-Saving Medicines  

By Behrang Kianzad

The COVID-19 crisis intensified decade-long debates on the interaction between intellectual property rights (IPRs), competition law and access to affordable life-saving treatments and vaccines. Compulsory licensing of patented medicines is a tried-and-tested method to expand access, particularly in a situation of “national emergency or other circumstances of extreme urgency” within the meaning of Article 31(b) of the TRIPS Agreement. Some legislations, such as European competition law, offer a toolbox for curbing the exercise of IPRs if they would be found in conflict with certain competition rules, such as rules prohibiting excessive pricing by dominant undertakings. The paper analyses the interface between intellectual property law and competition law in general, moving on to the settled case law of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) on this matter. It provides a general overview of legal and economics arguments related to excessive pricing prohibition and the main case law of European competition law on the matter and discusses whether compulsory licensing as a remedy against excessive pricing of patented life-saving pharmaceutical products can be a viable and appropriate remedy. Finally, the paper offers policy recommendations relating to compulsory licensing based on excessive pricing.

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SC Statement – WIPO Diplomatic Conference on GRs & Associated TK, 13-24 May 2024

STATEMENT

Diplomatic Conference on Genetic Resources and Associated Traditional Knowledge

Geneva, May 13-24, 2024

The South Centre at WIPO Diplomatic Conference urges strong improvements in Basic Proposal for IP and genetic resources treaty: clear minimum standards for patent disclosure, digital sequence information inclusion & WIPO website for monitoring claims. Searching consensus must not impede this vital treaty to incorporate effective measures against misappropriation.

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SouthViews No. 262, 24 April 2024

The Global Digital Compact we need for people and the planet

 by Anita Gurumurthy, Nandini Chami, Shreeja Sen, Merrin Muhammed Ashraf of IT for Change

The Zero Draft of the Global Digital Compact (GDC) to be adopted at the Summit of the Future is crucial to international digital cooperation under a transformative vision of global digital governance. It should identify the means for achieving equitable participation, sustainable development, gender equality, increased local capacity, public ownership of core digital infrastructure and address the concentration of power in the digital economy. This SouthViews considers some of the shortcomings of the draft GDC, particularly in attaining equitable international data governance and democratic participation in a digital multistakeholder scenario to avoid data monopolies and ensure inclusive policy-making processes, while recentering the objectives of Internet governance for inclusive and development-oriented information societies.

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Policy Brief 127, 17 April 2024

Unlocking the Potential of Copyright Limitations and Exceptions (L&Es)

by Faith O. Majekolagbe

Copyright limitations and exceptions (L&Es) are vital tools for creativity, innovation, access to knowledge and education, and human capital formation. All of these are crucial to the development of societies and achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). A strong system of well-defined copyright L&Es guarantees the public adequate access and use of the cultural goods and knowledge that are critical to achieving development goals. This paper identifies and discusses specific clusters of L&Es that are essential for achieving the SDGs. These clusters should be recognized and implemented in copyright laws at national, regional, and international levels to strengthen development objectives. Instead of applying specific L&Es to all countries, regardless of their unique developmental needs, recognizing these clusters of L&Es could help design an approach to international copyright law that is centred around development. Ultimately, this approach would provide greater flexibility in designing development programs that align with the SDGs and recognize copyright law’s inherent development rationale.

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SouthViews No. 258, 11 March 2024

New US Policy on Exercise of March-In Rights to Curb High Drug Prices: Lessons for the Global South

By Nirmalya Syam

In response to soaring prescription drug costs, the United States government recently announced proposed changes to the exercise of march-in rights under the Bayh-Dole Act, allowing federal agencies to license taxpayer-funded inventions to other parties based on factors such as accessibility and affordability. This article explores the implications of the US policy shift on global pharmaceutical pricing and access, particularly for developing countries. Drawing parallels between the US approach and flexibilities under intellectual property laws such as compulsory licensing and government use authorizations that are allowed under the WTO TRIPS Agreement, the article suggests that similar strategies could be employed by developing nations to address public health needs and economic considerations.

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Research Paper 191, 25 January 2024

TRIPS Waiver Decision for Equitable Access to Medical Countermeasures in the Pandemic: COVID-19 Diagnostics and Therapeutics

By Nirmalya Syam and Muhammad Zaheer Abbas, PhD

The Marrakesh Agreement Establishing the World Trade Organization (WTO) allows WTO Members to agree to temporarily waive obligations under the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS Agreement). However, the TRIPS Decision adopted by the 12th WTO Ministerial Conference in June 2022, after lengthy and protracted negotiations lasting for 20 months in the middle of a pandemic, allowed only a fragment of the waiver proposal submitted by India and South Africa. Moreover, since the adoption of the Decision there has been an impasse in the WTO about extending the Decision to COVID-19 diagnostics and therapeutics even though the WTO Members were mandated by the Decision to decide on this matter within six months of the Decision. This research paper analyses the current state of play and concludes that there is a need to immediately and unconditionally extend the Decision to COVID-19 diagnostics and therapeutics. Moreover, the paper suggests options for how the TRIPS flexibilities can be optimally utilized in a pandemic situation without developing countries being resigned to the vagaries of negotiations on a waiver which is supposed to be an urgent emergency solution. In this regard, the paper also suggests options that could be considered for reforming the process of decision-making on a waiver proposal to ensure that decisions on waivers are taken in a timely and expedited manner without being negotiated for an extensive period of time in the midst of an emergency.

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South Centre Report, 16 January 2024

Identifying Legal Challenges for Farmers’ Innovation

By Saurav Ghimire

On 9 October 2023, an expert workshop on “Identifying Legal Challenges for Farmers’ Innovation” was organised at the Centre for Private and Economic Law, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, in collaboration with the South Centre and Université Catholique de Louvain. The hybrid event gathered experts to discuss the challenges for farmers’ innovation, particularly those emerging from regulatory regimes. The workshop brainstormed policy and regulatory hindrances to farmers’ involvement in plant breeding, namely, in access to breeding materials, access to the market and reward/protection for the innovation.

The expert workshop was organised as a part of a joint research project, “Farmers as Plant Breeders: Legal Mechanisms to Foster Farmers’ Innovation”, led by Prof. Christine Frison (Université Catholique de Louvain), Prof. Kim Van der Borght (Vrije Universiteit Brussel), and  Prof. Carlos Correa (South Centre). The research project is funded by the Research Foundation Flanders (FWO).

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Research Paper 188, 7 December 2023

The Intersection Between Intellectual Property, Public Health and Access to Climate-Related Technologies

By Lívia Regina Batista

On the 20th anniversary of the Doha Declaration on the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS Agreement) and Public Health adopted by the World Trade Organization, we realize that its impact is beyond issues of public health stricto sensu. The Doha Declaration has inspired discussions at the Council for TRIPS regarding access to climate-related technologies. Climate change is the main and most globalized environmental problem with adverse effects on public health, especially for the vulnerable communities in the Global-South. The main argument of the proponents of the discussion in the TRIPS Council is the need to rebalance public interests (such as public health and environmental/climate issues) with the private/economic interests of the most powerful countries and corporations. This debate addresses both the recognition of intellectual property rights as an important means for the promotion of technological innovation, and the required wider dissemination of technologies – be they medicines or climate-related technologies. This research paper explores the possibilities that the TRIPS Agreement and the Doha Declaration create for international transfer of climate-related technologies. Even though such discussions on climate-related technologies have initially failed in linking climate change and public health, as well as the rhetoric of human rights, the relevance of the topic remains. Besides that, the response to public health issues also must learn from the experience in climate change, such as the case studies evidencing the insufficiency and inefficiency of fast-tracking programs to provide for a wider dissemination of technologies – which have now been widely replicated to address the COVID-19 pandemic. Such comparison can also be an entrance point to discuss the public health implications for the international regime on climate change, highlighting that such issues are deeply intertwined, and need to be addressed jointly as well.

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Research Paper 187, 4 December 2023

The Global Digital Compact: opportunities and challenges for developing countries in a fragmented digital space

By Carlos Correa, Danish, Vitor Ido, Jacquelene Mwangi and Daniel Uribe

The adoption of a Global Digital Compact (GDC) as one of the outcomes of the Summit of the Future opens up the opportunity to address in a systematic manner issues that are of critical importance for the digital global governance. It also poses a challenge to developing countries, as most of them lack the infrastructure and capabilities to fully participate in the digital transformation. Many inequalities, including a deep digital divide, do exist and would need to be addressed by the GDC for it to become a real instrument of change and improvement in the living conditions and the prospects of a better future for most of the world population. This paper examines the current fragmentation in the digital governance and some of the issues raised by the proposals made by the UN Secretary-General for adoption of the GDC.

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