Left on Our Own: COVID-19, TRIPS-Plus Free Trade Agreements, and the Doha Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health
By Melissa Omino and Joanna Kahumbu
The cusp of the twentieth anniversary of the WTO Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health (hereafter “the Declaration”) was marked by a global pandemic. The Declaration and its iteration in the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (hereafter “TRIPS”) Article 31 bis, should have helped to contain the devastation in least developed and developing countries. The reality is that the pandemic is still ongoing, and the Global South led by South Africa and India are seeking a waiver of provisions to the TRIPS Agreement to ensure that COVID-19 therapeutics, diagnostics, and vaccines reach their citizens in order to contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus (“the TRIPS waiver”). These citizens are especially vulnerable because of their inability to access vaccines due to their prices and supply shortages caused by the refusal to share manufacturing technology. The Doha Declaration aimed at reaffirming the interpretation and implementation of the TRIPS Agreement to support WTO members’ right to protect public health and promote access to medicines. However, the operationalization of the Declaration via Article 31bis of TRIPS has been cumbersome and procedurally difficult to navigate. This paper argues that the current iteration of the Doha Declaration within TRIPS fails to meet the objectives of the Declaration as demonstrated by the need for a further waiver of the TRIPS agreement. It also attempts to “reimagine” Article 31 bis in light of the TRIPS waiver from the position of the Global South to make it more equitable and practicable and maintain the spirit of the Declaration.
The WTO TRIPS Decision on COVID-19 Vaccines: What is Needed to Implement it?
By Carlos M. Correa and Nirmalya Syam
The 12th WTO Ministerial Conference adopted a Ministerial Decision on the TRIPS Agreement on 17 June 2022. This partially concluded almost two years of protracted discussions in response to a proposal by India and South Africa for a waiver from certain obligations under the TRIPS Agreement for health products and technologies for the prevention, treatment and containment of COVID-19. The adopted Decision only waives the obligation under article 31 (f) of the TRIPS Agreement. Developing country WTO members are now allowed to export any proportion of vaccines, including ingredients and processes, necessary for the COVID-19 pandemic that are manufactured under a compulsory license or government use authorization to other developing countries. It also contains some clarifications of relevant TRIPS provisions, while introducing a number of conditionalities that are not present in the TRIPS Agreement. This paper examines the object and scope of the Decision, the requirements established for its use, and the required actions to be taken by WTO members to implement it.
TRIPS Flexibilities and Access to Medicines: An Evaluation of Barriers to Employing Compulsory Licenses for Patented Pharmaceuticals at the WTO
By Anna S.Y. Wong, Clarke B. Cole, Jillian C. Kohler
Under Articles 31 and 31bis of the TRIPS Agreement, WTO members may validly sanction the use of a patented invention without the patent owner’s authorization by issuing a compulsory license (CL). In the pharmaceuticals space, governments have historically employed compulsory licenses to compel originator manufacturers to license their patents to generic manufacturers before patent expiry, increasing the supply and reducing the price of patented pharmaceuticals domestically.
This paper evaluates the three primary barriers to employing compulsory licenses for pharmaceuticals underscored by members during TRIPS waiver discussions at the WTO: (1) a lack of enabling domestic legislation, (2) a lack of domestic manufacturing capacity coupled with an unworkable Article 31bis importation system, and (3) consistent political pressure from other members to refrain from issuing compulsory licenses. A survey of members’ domestic compulsory license legislation finds that virtually all members have enacted enabling legislation under Article 31 for the issuance of compulsory licenses to supply their local markets. However, implementation of Article 31bis is limited by a lack of enabling compulsory license export legislation, streamlined administrative processes, or both across all members, preventing members lacking domestic manufacturing capacity from importing pharmaceuticals. An analysis of USTR Special 301 Reports from 1994-2021 further reveals that countries have consistently been placed on the Special 301 Report Priority Watch List for issuing pharmaceutical compulsory licenses, with instances as recent as 2020. As such, general reluctance by members to issue compulsory licenses due to overt political pressure through the Special 301 Report is likely warranted. These results highlight a range of barriers preventing the full use of compulsory licenses for pharmaceuticals under the current Article 31 and 31bis framework, with the effects disproportionately borne by member states lacking domestic manufacturing capacity.
Statement by Dr. Carlos Correa, Executive Director of the South Centre, to the Ministers and Governors Meeting of the Intergovernmental Group of Twenty-Four (G24)
October 2022, Washington, D.C.
Amid multiple crises and facing gloomier global economic prospects for 2023, the Ministers and Governors meeting of the Intergovernmental Group of Twenty-Four on International Monetary Affairs and Development (G24) was held on 11 October 2022 during the IMF and World Bank annual meeting. The South Centre is an observer of the G24. The written statement of Dr. Carlos Correa, the Executive Director of the South Centre, was circulated at the meeting.
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?
The South’s Role and Responsibilities in the Next Phase of Multilateralism
By Elizabeth Sidiropoulos and Luanda Mpungose
The global erosion of trust in the global institutions is the direct result of non-delivery on the most crucial challenges that face humanity such as inequality, poverty, and climate change. South-South Cooperation can play a vital role in reinvigorating multilateralism. Beyond its horizontal engagements it has already begun supporting and enriching processes, institutions and norms-building at the global level. However, changing the superstructures that have discriminated against many developing countries will require a strategy that involves prioritising, coalition-building and coordination.
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.
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.
Statement by the South Centre to the 2022 Assemblies of the Member States of WIPO
The South Centre is the intergovernmental organization of developing countries based in Geneva that supports developing countries’ efforts to build up a fair and inclusive multilateral system conducive to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). We are of the view that a central objective of World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) as part of the United Nations (UN) UN system should be to support the achievement of such goals through the promotion of a balanced international intellectual property (IP) system that reflects the interests of countries at different levels of economic and technological development, and in line with the WIPO Development Agenda.
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.
South Centre Comments on the Draft Annotated Outline of a WHO Convention, Agreement or Other International Instrument on Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness and Response
24 June 2022
The South Centre welcomes the opportunity to provide comments on the draft annotated outline of a WHO convention, agreement or other international instrument on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response. Comments are provided with respect to the process and the content.