A Breakthrough in Negotiations on Intellectual Property, Protection of Genetic Resources and Traditional Knowledge in WIPO?
By Dr. Viviana Muñoz Tellez
This Policy Brief provides a brief summary of the current negotiations in the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) for an international legal instrument or instruments relating to intellectual property to ensure the balanced and effective protection of genetic resources (GRs), associated traditional knowledge (TK) and traditional cultural expressions (TCEs). The General Assembly in June 2022 took a significant decision to schedule a Diplomatic Conference in 2024 to conclude a treaty on the protection of GRs and associated TK. However broader protection for TK and TCEs is not part of the decision. The 44th session of the WIPO Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (IGC), held on 12–16 September 2022, focused on advancing text-based negotiations on these issues and two more sessions will follow. Developing countries must coordinate closely, in parallel to the IGC sessions, to agree on a common negotiating position for the treaty to be concluded no later than in 2024.
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).
Webinar: The Future of the TRIPS Agreement (Part 2)
11 October 2022
Time: 10:00 – 11:30 CET
Sustainable recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic requires availability of medical technologies in all countries. To date, inequity in access continues. The interface of intellectual property and promotion of public health is central to this question. This session is a follow-up to the South Centre’s 2021 WTO Public Forum working session, which kick-started a discussion on the future of the TRIPS Agreement after the Covid-19 pandemic.
This session will bring together various stakeholders to discuss whether a reform of the TRIPS Agreement and/or authoritative interpretations of some its key provisions are needed, having in view the proposals made in response to a request for a waiver for the Covid-19 pandemic and other possible public-health oriented solutions. What are the existing limitations and opportunities within the current framework? What further actions could be taken under the WTO rules in order to promote access to medical technologies for a sustainable and equitable future?
While global inequality continues to grow, developing and least developed countries face multiple crises in the context of a weak recovery from COVID-19, massive outflows of capital, decline of Official Development Assistance, monetary policy tightening, increase in food and energy prices and the impact of climate change. This document presents a brief analysis of the situation faced by South Centre’s members and other developing and least developed countries and provides a summary of the activities undertaken by the Centre in the period January – June 2022.
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.
The Human Right to Science: From Fragmentation to Comprehensive Implementation?
By Peter Bille Larsen and Marjorie Pamintuan
In times when the role of science in society is more debated than ever in polarized, politicized and partial terms, what is the role for the human right to science and rights-based approaches? The right to science remains poorly understood and neglected in both national and global human rights processes. Beyond defending the freedom of scientific expression, upholding the right to science is arguably fundamental to resolving key sustainability challenges of our times from climate change and the biodiversity crisis to global health and pandemics. The global COVID-19 pandemic has revealed persistent global inequalities not least in terms of how the privatization of science and current intellectual property regimes hinder just and equitable responses to access science and its benefits. This prompts the need for a shift from single-issue approaches to comprehensive and systematic treatment of the right to science as a bundle of human rights across multiple arenas to counter fragmentation and silo-tendencies.
Reaping the Fruits of Research on Microorganisms: Prospects and Challenges for R&D and Industry in Sri Lanka
by Ruwan Fernando
When the Intellectual Property Bill designed to secure compliance with the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (“TRIPS Agreement”) was challenged in the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka, the Court determined that the patenting of naturally occurring microorganisms by right holders would result in the increase of the prices of diagnoses and cures. The Supreme Court found that in the absence in the Bill of mitigatory measures -as allowed by the TRIPS Agreement- and of a working definition of the term “microorganism”, there was a violation of the right to equal protection under Article 12 (1) of the Constitution. In the circumstance, the patent protection for microorganisms was narrowed down to transgenic microorganisms.
The policy makers do not appear to have disregarded the positive impact of the Supreme Court determination by making the necessary statutory provisions and policy changes to facilitate the patent applications on transgenic microorganisms, while ensuring that local researchers are not restrained from gaining access to naturally occurring microorganisms for research and development.
La incorporación de la equidad en el Reglamento Sanitario Internacional y en futuros instrumentos jurídicos de la OMS sobre preparación y respuesta frente a pandemias
Por Nirmalya Syam
Los Estados miembros de la OMS están a punto de iniciar las negociaciones más importantes que podrían establecer el paradigma de las obligaciones jurídicas internacionales en materia de preparación y respuesta a futuras pandemias. Estas negociaciones se centran en las enmiendas al Reglamento Sanitario Internacional (2005) (RSI), así como en la negociación de un tratado u otro instrumento jurídico en el marco de la Constitución de la OMS que complemente el RSI para garantizar una mejor preparación y respuesta ante futuras pandemias, basándose en las experiencias de la actual pandemia de COVID-19. La consideración más crítica para los países en desarrollo en estas negociaciones será la integración de las preocupaciones de equidad, actualmente ausentes de las normas y mecanismos existentes a nivel mundial para permitir a los países en desarrollo prevenir y responder eficazmente a un brote pandémico. En este contexto, este informe sugiere algunos elementos de equidad que deberían perseguirse a través de propuestas textuales específicas de los países en desarrollo mediante enmiendas al RSI.
L’intégration de l’équité dans le Règlement sanitaire international et les futurs instruments juridiques de l’OMS sur la préparation et la riposte aux pandémies
Par Nirmalya Syam
Les États membres de l’OMS sont sur le point d’entamer les négociations les plus importantes qui pourraient définir le paradigme des obligations juridiques internationales en matière de préparation et de riposte aux futures pandémies. Ces négociations portent sur les amendements au Règlement sanitaire international (2005) (RSI) ainsi que sur la négociation d’un traité ou d’un autre instrument juridique dans le cadre de la Constitution de l’OMS qui complétera le RSI afin d’assurer une meilleure préparation et une meilleure riposte aux futures pandémies, en tirant parti de l’expérience de la pandémie actuelle de COVID-19. La considération la plus critique pour les pays en développement dans ces négociations sera l’intégration des préoccupations d’équité, actuellement absentes des règles et des instruments existants disponibles au niveau mondial pour permettre aux pays en développement de prévenir et de répondre efficacement à une pandémie. Dans ce contexte, ce document suggère quelques éléments d’équité qui devraient être poursuivis par des propositions textuelles spécifiques des pays en développement par le biais des amendements au RSI.
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.