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).
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.
Utilising Public Health Flexibilities in the Era of COVID-19: An Analysis of Intellectual Property Regulation in the OAPI and MENA Regions
By Yousuf A Vawda and Bonginkosi Shozi
The paper explores the unique approaches to IP protection in the countries belonging to the Organisation Africaine de la Propriété Intellectuelle/African Intellectual Property Organization (OAPI) and the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) regions; the limited extent to which legal and policy frameworks with regard to TRIPS flexibilities have been adopted and implemented in pursuit of access to medicines in those countries; and makes recommendations in order to optimise the use of the flexibilities in advancing public health objectives. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, the impact of IP rights on access, and some approaches to countering the challenges to access are also discussed.
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.
Propiedad intelectual y acceso a medicamentos: una introducción a cuestiones clave – algunos términos y conceptos básicos
Por Germán Velásquez
La propiedad intelectual y las patentes en particular se han convertido en uno de los temas más debatidos sobre el acceso a los medicamentos, desde la creación de la Organización Mundial del Comercio (OMC) y la entrada en vigor del Acuerdo sobre los Aspectos de los Derechos de Propiedad Intelectual relacionados con el Comercio (ADPIC). Las patentes no son de ninguna manera las únicas barreras para el acceso a medicamentos que salvan vidas, pero pueden desempeñar un papel significativo, o incluso determinante. Durante el período de protección de la patente, la capacidad del titular de la patente para determinar los precios, en ausencia de competencia, puede hacer que el medicamento resulte inalcanzable para la mayoría de las personas que viven en los países en desarrollo. Este primer número de los “Materiales de capacitación del South Centre” pretende, en su primera parte, ofrecer una introducción a cuestiones clave en el ámbito del acceso a los medicamentos y la propiedad intelectual. La segunda parte describe y define algunos términos y conceptos básicos de esta área relativamente nueva de las políticas farmacéuticas, que son los aspectos comerciales de los derechos de propiedad intelectual que regulan la investigación, el desarrollo y el suministro de medicamentos y las tecnologías sanitarias en general.
Propriété Intellectuelle et Accès aux Médicaments : Une Introduction aux Grandes Problématiques – Quelques Termes et Concepts de Base
Par Germán Velásquez
La propriété intellectuelle et les brevets en particulier sont devenus l’une des questions les plus débattues sur l’accès aux médicaments, depuis la création de l’Organisation mondiale du commerce (OMC) et l’entrée en vigueur de l’Accord sur les aspects des droits de propriété intellectuelle qui touchent au commerce (ADPIC). Les brevets ne sont nullement les seuls obstacles à l’accès aux médicaments qui sauvent des vies, mais ils peuvent jouer un rôle important, voire déterminant. Pendant la durée de protection d’un brevet, la capacité du titulaire du brevet à déterminer les prix, en l’absence de concurrence, peut faire en sorte que le médicament soit inabordable pour la majorité des personnes vivant dans les pays en développement. Ce premier numéro du “South Centre Training Papers” vise, dans sa première partie, à fournir une introduction aux questions clés dans le domaine de l’accès aux médicaments et de la propriété intellectuelle. La deuxième partie décrit et définit certains termes et concepts de base de ce domaine relativement nouveau des politiques pharmaceutiques, qui sont les aspects liés au commerce des droits de propriété intellectuelle qui régissent la recherche, le développement et la fourniture de médicaments et les technologies de la santé en général.
Special Section 301:US Interference with the Design and Implementation of National Patent Laws
By Dr. Carlos M. Correa
The continuous application of Special Section 301 by the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) undermines the rule of law as a fundamental principle of a multilateral system based on the sovereign equality of states and the respect for international law. Interference with foreign countries’ national intellectual property (IP) policies—which have significant socio-economic effects—negates their right to determine independently the level and modalities of protection of such property within the framework and policy space allowed by the international law. This paper examines the patent-related claims made by the USTR in relation to the developing countries on the USTR Priority Watch List. It argues that the regulations and practices identified by the USTR show a legitimate use of the flexibilities provided for by the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), and that the ignorance of the public interests of the countries concerned (for instance, with regard to access to affordable medicines) has contributed to the discredit (and ineffectiveness) of the Special Section 301.
Non-Violation and Situation Complaints under the TRIPS Agreement: Implications for Developing Countries
By Nirmalya Syam
While the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) provided for the applicability of non-violation and situation complaints to the settlement of disputes in the area of intellectual property (IP), when the World Trade Organization (WTO) agreements were adopted in 1994, a moratorium was put in place until WTO Members could agree on the scope and modalities for the application of such complaints. However, for more than two decades, discussions in the TRIPS Council on the subject have remained inconclusive. The biannual WTO Ministerial Conference has granted extensions of the moratorium with regularity. This paper reviews the debate on the applicability of non-violation and situation complaints under the TRIPS Agreement, including the arguments consistently held by two WTO Members that if the moratorium is not extended by consensus, non-violation and situation complaints would become automatically applicable. This paper argues that a consensus decision by the WTO Ministerial Conference is required to determine the scope and modalities and, hence, the applicability of such complaints under the TRIPS Agreement. Even if the moratorium was not extended, the WTO Ministerial Conference should still adopt a decision calling on the TRIPS Council to continue examination of the scope and modalities of such complaints. It also argues that in the absence of an extension of the moratorium on initiating such complaints—and although they would not be applicable—a situation of uncertainty would be created that may lead to a de facto limitation in the use of flexibilities allowed under the TRIPS Agreement.
Submission by the South Centre to the Draft Issues Paper on Intellectual Property Policy and Artificial Intelligence (WIPO/IP/AI/2/GE(20/1)
The South Centre welcomes the opportunity to submit to the WIPO Secretariat input on the draft issues paper on intellectual property policy (IP) and artificial intelligence (AI). The South Centre hereby provides recommendations for the revised Issues Paper. The aim of the Issues Paper should be to provide a framework for informed discussion among Member States on the topic of IP policy and AI, without pre-empting the substance of such discussion, and to complement a process of sharing of views and experiences between different Member States and constituencies. The Development Agenda should also be mainstreamed into the discussion of IP policy and AI.
Eighteen Years After Doha: An Analysis of the Use of Public Health TRIPS Flexibilities in Africa
By Yousuf A Vawda and Bonginkosi Shozi
As we observe the 18th anniversary of the Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement (Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) and Public Health, it is appropriate to take stock of intellectual property developments and endeavour to present a comprehensive account of the situation in the African continent in respect of the implementation of TRIPS flexibilities, specifically those regarding access to medicines. This research paper provides an overview of the extent to which selected African countries have adopted legal and policy frameworks with regard to TRIPS flexibilities, examines the actual use of these flexibilities in enabling access to medicines in those countries, and suggests some recommendations for optimising the use of the flexibilities in pursuing public health imperatives.