Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs)

Policy Brief 92, April 2021

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.

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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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Policy Brief 89, March 2021

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.

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SCTI Submission, October 2020

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.

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Research Paper 116, August 2020

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.

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