Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs)
Frontier Technologies and IP – WIPO 4th Conversation
South Centre Statement, 23 September 2021
The South Centre is an intergovernmental think tank of 54 developing countries working across various policy areas, including health, intellectual property, and the impacts of the 4th Industrial Revolution. The following remarks focus on the necessary attention that should be laid out to the specific status of developing countries.
From the outset, it should be recalled that the technological divide between industrialized countries and most of the global south drastically limits the conditions to accrue benefits from data-intensive economies. This should not be understated in policy discussions such as the present one.
Implementation of a TRIPS Waiver for Health Technologies and Products for COVID-19: Preventing Claims Under Free Trade and Investment Agreements
by Carlos M. Correa, Nirmalya Syam and Daniel Uribe
While increasing support from WTO members for a proposed waiver from certain obligations under the TRIPS Agreement with regard to health products required for responding to COVID-19 has made a decision on the TRIPS waiver imminent, the waiver will have to be implemented domestically by WTO members through appropriate legislative, administrative or judicial measures, including through executive orders that have been utilized to implement emergency measures in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. In this regard, the scope of the TRIPS waiver, as well as the terms of applicable free trade agreements (FTAs) and international investment agreements (IIAs) will also impact the policy space available to countries to implement the waiver. Ensuring a broad scope of the waiver, as well as complementary measures to safeguard the implementation of the waiver from potential challenges under FTAs or IIAs will be critical. This research paper discusses some options that could be explored to enable the implementation of the TRIPS waiver by overcoming possible impediments that could arise under such agreements.
By Prof. Ujal Singh Bhatia
The author posits that the global public health impact of the Covid-19 pandemic along with the economic and distributional aspects of vaccines and treatments, involves a market failure without the underlying institutional safety nets for an effective, globally coordinated response. He proposes strong, self-standing institutions with clear mandates and resources to make effective interventions at three levels: political, financial and regulatory. Also, the WTO rules regarding export restrictions are at present too accommodative to allow for a quick response. For Intellectual Property, both manufacturing and licensing, and relaxation of IP rules should be considered.
Interpreting the Flexibilities Under the TRIPS Agreement
By Carlos M. Correa
While the TRIPS Agreement provides for minimum standards of protection of intellectual property, it leaves a certain degree of policy space for WTO members, whether developed or developing countries, to implement the Agreement’s provisions in different manners, to legislate in areas not subject to the minimum standards under the Agreement, and to develop legal interpretations of such provisions to determine the scope and content of the applicable obligations. This paper focuses on some aspects of how panels and the Appellate Body of the WTO have interpreted said provisions. The paper also draws general conclusions for the implementation of TRIPS flexibilities, which are of crucial importance for the design of a pro-competitive intellectual property system and, in particular, for achieving public health objectives, as specifically recognized by the Doha Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health.
The Proposed Pandemic Treaty and the Challenge of the South for a Robust Diplomacy
By Obijiofor Aginam
The motivation for a pandemic treaty is infallible because of the ‘globalization of public health’ in a rapidly evolving interdependence of nations, societies, and peoples. Notwithstanding the lofty purposes of the proposed pandemic treaty as a tool for effective cooperation by member-states of the WHO to address emerging and re-emerging disease pandemics in an inter-dependent world, the proposal nonetheless raises some structural and procedural conundrums for the Global South. The negotiation of a pandemic treaty should, as a matter of necessity, take into account the asymmetries of World Health Organization member-states and the interests of the Global South.
Expanding the production of COVID-19 vaccines to reach developing countries
Lift the barriers to fight the pandemic in the Global South
By Carlos M. Correa
The unfolding of COVID-19 has shown that the international system has been unable to ensure equal access to the vaccines and other products necessary to fight the pandemic. While the need for a strong response remains obvious, proposals for scaling up the production of COVID-19 vaccines across the globe are still blocked in the World Trade Organization.
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.
Competition Regulation in Healthcare in South Africa
By Hardin Ratshisusu
South Africa’s nascent competition regulatory regime is coming of age and has potential to address historical market concentration challenges previously enabled by the apartheid regime, prior to its dismantling in the 1990s. Many sectors of the economy are highly concentrated, including the private healthcare sector, with market outcomes that breed market failures, lack of competitiveness and high cost of care. Looking through competition in the healthcare sector it becomes evident that the market structure challenges do not only require domestic interventions, but also a global response to address some policy and regulatory gaps.
Comments on Discussion Draft: Possible Changes to the United Nations Model Double Taxation Convention Between Developed and Developing Countries Concerning Inclusion of software payments in the definition of royalties
The South Centre Tax Initiative (SCTI) offers its comments on the discussion draft on inclusion of software payments in the definition of royalties. As is well known, this is an important issue that developing countries have been fighting for, for a while now. The SCTI supports the proposed change which seeks to insert the phrase “computer software” in article 12(3) of the United Nations Model Double Taxation Convention Between Developed and Developing Countries. The COVID-19 pandemic adds special urgency to resolving this long-pending issue as revenue from software payments made from developing countries continues to increase.
The TRIPS Agreement Article 73 Security Exceptions and the COVID-19 Pandemic
By Frederick Abbott
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused Governments to contemplate measures to override patents and other intellectual property rights (IPRs) in order to facilitate production and distribution of vaccines, treatments, diagnostics and medical devices. This paper discusses whether the COVID-19 pandemic may be considered an “emergency in international relations” and how WTO Member States may invoke Article 73 (“Security Exceptions”) of the TRIPS Agreement as the legal basis for overriding IPRs otherwise required to be made available or enforced. It concludes that the pandemic constitutes an emergency in international relations within the meaning of Article 73(b)(iii) and that this provision allows Governments to take actions necessary to protect their essential security interests.