Summary of the intervention by Carlos Correa, Executive Director of the South Centre,at the UN General Assembly – Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness and Response Multi-Stakeholder Hearing, New York, May 9th, 2023
The response to COVID-19 revealed serious shortcomings in the multilateral system. Despite solemn declarations, it was unable to ensure equity in addressing its health, economic and social impacts. See a summary of the South Centre’s intervention at the UN General Assembly – Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness and Response Multi-Stakeholder Hearing below.
Taxation of Computer Software: Need for Clear Guidance in the UN Model Tax Convention
By Abdul Muheet Chowdhary and Sebastien Babou Diasso
Developing countries pay enormous sums of money for the right to use intellectual property such as patents, trademarks, copyrights, etc. Such payments are known as ‘royalties’. The scale is enormous, and just 27 South Centre Member States paid $45 billion in 2020 as royalties. Some proportion of these payments are for the right to use computer software. Developing countries can gain significant revenues if the United Nations can provide clear international tax guidelines that payments for the right to use computer software should be taxable as royalties. This Policy Brief provides the world’s first country-level revenue estimates for 34 of the South Centre’s Member States and finds that they could collect potentially $1 billion in tax revenues in 2020 had they been able to tax payments for the use of computer software as royalties.
Submission by the South Centre to the USITC hearing on Covid-19 diagnostics and therapeutics
India, South Africa and co-sponsors made a proposal for a waiver to certain provisions of the provisions of the WTO Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) in March 2020. In June 2022, the WTO Ministerial Decision on the TRIPS Agreement provided a partial waiver to obligations in Article 31, namely an exception to the 31.f export restrictions, in relation to patents for Covid-19 vaccines. No decision has yet been made with respect to diagnostics and therapeutics for Covid-19.
In this context, the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) requested the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) to prepare a report on Covid-19 diagnostics and therapeutics.
Read below the submission by the South Centre to the USITC investigation: COVID-19 Diagnostics and Therapeutics: Supply, Demand, and TRIPS Agreement Flexibilities (Inv. No. 332-596).
El debate sobre la exención de los derechos de propiedad intelectual en tiempos de pandemia
El 11 de marzo de 2020 la Organización Mundial de la Salud (OMS) comunicó que la enfermedad por coronavirus de 2019 (COVID-19), podía ser considerada una pandemia. A medida que el contagio de la enfermedad aumentaba se hizo evidente la insuficiencia de los recursos sanitarios, vacunas y métodos de diagnóstico y tratamiento para enfrentar con éxito la pandemia. En este contexto, en la Organización Mundial del Comercio (OMC) se reavivó la tensión entre las reglas de propiedad intelectual y la salud pública.
Como consecuencia de ello, el 2 de octubre de 2020, Sudáfrica e India, presentaron ante la OMC una propuesta para que ciertas disposiciones del Acuerdo sobre los ADPIC no resultaran de aplicación para cualquier producto o procedimiento destinado a la prevención, contención y tratamiento de la COVID-19. Esta propuesta de exención (waiver), contó con la férrea oposición de la Unión Europea que presentó una propuesta alternativa. Para intentar llegar a un acuerdo se formó una comisión cuadrilateral conformada por Sudáfrica, India, la Unión Europea y EEUU. Finalmente, luego de dos años de negociaciones y en el marco de la 12ª Conferencia Ministerial (MC12) celebrada en Ginebra el 17 de junio de 2022, se aprobó un proyecto de exención de los derechos de propiedad intelectual que dista mucho de la propuesta original de 2020.
El presente trabajo, analiza detalladamente el proceso de discusión – en torno al tema del “waiver” – dado en el Consejo de los ADPIC de la OMC: estudia los antecedentes de la propuesta de exención, analiza los documentos presentados por las partes en pugna, revisa los argumentos esgrimidos a favor y en contra del waiver, los instrumentos propuestos y, asimismo, muestra cómo se desenvolvieron las distintas posiciones hasta alcanzar el acuerdo final.
Autores: Alejandra Aoun, Juan Correa, Martín A. Cortese, Vanesa Lowenstein, Sandra C. Negro, Guillermo E. Vidaurreta
WHO proposed instrument on pandemics: the Conceptual Zero Draft needs substantial improvement to address global public health needs
We welcome the discussions in the WHO on a new instrument on pandemic prevention, preparedness, response and recovery. While we appreciate the preparation and sharing with WHO members of the Conceptual Zero Draft (hereinafter ‘the Draft’), we note that more work is needed to address the insufficiency of the tools at the disposal of the WHO that became evident with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Technology Transfer and Climate Change: A developing country perspective
By Nicolás M. Perrone
The role of technology transfer in climate change negotiations is vital. If technology is to help us mitigate and adapt to climate change, the international community needs to ensure sufficient innovation and technology transfer. One of the main challenges of the technology transfer regime for environmentally sound technologies is that a private and market-led model may not meet global technology transfer needs. This policy brief suggests that governments should explore market, hybrid and non-market approaches to accelerate the transfer of environmentally sound technologies. Developing countries’ governments should also explore cooperative approaches to improve their bargaining power, reduce costs and ensure adaptation and innovation capacity in the developing world.
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).
Brazilian Competition Law and Access to Health in Brazil: Exploitative Pricing in the Pharmaceutical Sector
By Bruno Braz de Castro
This paper aims to analyze the interfaces between Brazilian Competition Law and the issue of access to medicines, with a special focus on abuse of industrial property rights and related exclusionary and exploitative effects. The paper analyzes the case law of Brazilian Administrative Council for Economic Defense (CADE) in the pharmaceutical sector and discusses abusive practices such as illegitimately imposing non-existent or invalid intellectual property rights with anticompetitive purposes. It then addresses abusive strategies in the exercise of industrial property rights which are, in essence, valid: i.e., exclusionary practices, aimed at artificially raising barriers to entry; and exploitative practices, directly translated as the exercise of market power to the detriment of the consumer. The latter ultimately result in exploitative excessive prices; contractual, quality or privacy degradation; and restrictions on supply, such as by hoarding/preventing the exploitation of industrial property rights. The paper concludes that the prohibition of exploitative pricing under the current competition law is legally valid and effective, with certain methodological concerns towards reducing the risk of wrongful convictions (for instance, by applying screening tests to determine the markets that are candidates for intervention). In view of such guidelines, the pharmaceutical industry appears to be an important candidate for antitrust attention, given the magnitude of the harm potentially derived from non-intervention against the practice. Remedies in this area, importantly, should focus on identifying and solving the sector’s structural competitive problems. In the case of medicines subject to price regulation by the Drug Market Regulation Chamber (CMED), the technical expertise of the competition authority may be of great value in terms of competition advocacy, a fact that is demonstrated in light of recent discussions on extraordinary price adjustments because of competitive problems in certain markets.
Competition Law and Intellectual Property: A Study Drawing from The Eli Lilly Case on ‘Sham Litigation’ in Brazil
By Pablo Leurquin
Competition authorities may be the best equipped institutions to penalize certain illicit practices that involve intellectual property rights. This article analyzes the decision by the Brazilian Administrative Council for Economic Defense (Conselho Administrativo de Defesa Econômica – CADE) in the Eli Lilly case, in which the company was convicted for abusive use of the right to petition (sham litigation) with anti-competitive effects. It examines general aspects of technological dependence in the Brazilian pharmaceutical industry, presents the legal premises necessary for the understanding of the decision made by the competition authority, and analyzes the legal grounds for the sanction imposed on Eli Lilly.
Movement Forward on ABS for the Convention on Biological Diversity: Bounded Openness Over Natural Information
by Joseph Henry Vogel, Manuel Ruiz Muller, Klaus Angerer, and Christopher May
“Access to genetic resources” and “fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising [from their] utilization” is the third objective of the 1992 United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). The expression is included in the full title of the 2010 Nagoya Protocol (NP). Neither agreement defined “material” in the phrase “genetic material” which resulted in misinterpretation that the object of access for R&D is tangible. Unfairness ensues: competition among provider Parties leads to the elimination of economic rents, which is desirable for tangibles but undesirable for intangibles. Once interpreted as natural information, the economics of information justifies a Global Multilateral Benefit-Sharing Mechanism (GMBSM) (Article 10 NP) which collects and distributes rents on value added to genetic resources. “Bounded openness over natural information” is the modality proposed for the GMBSM. The Executive Secretary of the United Nations Secretariat of the CBD recognized the argument in the 2021 Note “Digital Sequence Information on Genetic Resources”.
Farmers, Seeds & the Laws: Importing the Chilling Effect Doctrine
By Saurav Ghimire
As an increasing number of countries are formulating Plant Variety Protection (PVP) laws, a growing number of farmers are affected by plant breeders’ rights. In addition, the seed certification law also affects farmers’ relations with seeds. Discussing the farmers’ interaction with the PVP law and seed certification law in Indonesia, this article establishes that the farmers have internalised the law beyond the scope of the legal text, such that they self-limit breeding, saving, and exchanging of seeds even in legally permissible situations. Based on the chilling effect doctrine, this article argues that the related laws should be relaxed to ensure that they do not over deter farmers from exercising their rights. This article calls for both negative and positive state obligations to address the chilling effect on farmers arising from both state and private actors.