How Should the WHO Pandemic Treaty Negotiations Tackle Intellectual Property?
By Viviana Muñoz Tellez
The WHO pandemic instrument should commit the Parties to limit the exclusionary effects that government-granted patents and other IPRs may have during pandemics in support of rapid diffusion of new vaccines, diagnostics, medicines and other tools and facilitate collaboration and freedom to operate. The current draft text of Article 11 would not make any change to the status quo.
WTO MC13: TRIPS Issues and Technology Transfer
by Viviana Munoz Tellez, Nirmalya Syam
This Policy Brief discusses issues concerning trade, intellectual property, and technology transfer that are most relevant for consideration at the 13th World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference (MC13) in February 2024 and inclusion in its outcomes.
The following recommendations are proposed:
- TRIPS non-violation and situation complaints: MC13 Decision on the scope and modalities of non-violation and situation complaints under the Agreement on Trade related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). A second option is to extend the moratorium.
- TRIPS, diagnostics and therapeutics for COVID-19: MC13 Decision that extends the MC12 TRIPS waiver Decision (only applicable to vaccines) to diagnostics and therapeutics
- Relationship between TRIPS and the Convention on Biological Diversity: to be addressed in the MC13 Outcome Document
- Follow up to the MC12 Declaration on the WTO Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic and Preparedness for Future Pandemics: to be addressed in the MC13 Outcome Document
- Relationship of trade and technology transfer: include in the MC13 Outcome Document to reinvigorate and give direction to the Working Group on Trade and Technology Transfer (WGTTT) and increase attention in all relevant bodies on how the WTO can promote technology transfer
TRIPS Waiver Decision for Equitable Access to Medical Countermeasures in the Pandemic: COVID-19 Diagnostics and Therapeutics
By Nirmalya Syam and Muhammad Zaheer Abbas, PhD
The Marrakesh Agreement Establishing the World Trade Organization (WTO) allows WTO Members to agree to temporarily waive obligations under the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS Agreement). However, the TRIPS Decision adopted by the 12th WTO Ministerial Conference in June 2022, after lengthy and protracted negotiations lasting for 20 months in the middle of a pandemic, allowed only a fragment of the waiver proposal submitted by India and South Africa. Moreover, since the adoption of the Decision there has been an impasse in the WTO about extending the Decision to COVID-19 diagnostics and therapeutics even though the WTO Members were mandated by the Decision to decide on this matter within six months of the Decision. This research paper analyses the current state of play and concludes that there is a need to immediately and unconditionally extend the Decision to COVID-19 diagnostics and therapeutics. Moreover, the paper suggests options for how the TRIPS flexibilities can be optimally utilized in a pandemic situation without developing countries being resigned to the vagaries of negotiations on a waiver which is supposed to be an urgent emergency solution. In this regard, the paper also suggests options that could be considered for reforming the process of decision-making on a waiver proposal to ensure that decisions on waivers are taken in a timely and expedited manner without being negotiated for an extensive period of time in the midst of an emergency.
Submission by the South Centre to the USITC hearing on Covid-19 diagnostics and therapeutics
India, South Africa and co-sponsors made a proposal for a waiver to certain provisions of the provisions of the WTO Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) in March 2020. In June 2022, the WTO Ministerial Decision on the TRIPS Agreement provided a partial waiver to obligations in Article 31, namely an exception to the 31.f export restrictions, in relation to patents for Covid-19 vaccines. No decision has yet been made with respect to diagnostics and therapeutics for Covid-19.
In this context, the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) requested the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) to prepare a report on Covid-19 diagnostics and therapeutics.
Read below the submission by the South Centre to the USITC investigation: COVID-19 Diagnostics and Therapeutics: Supply, Demand, and TRIPS Agreement Flexibilities (Inv. No. 332-596).
South Centre Statement on the extension of the TRIPS waiver for diagnostics and therapeutics for COVID-19
Developing countries should consider options that can be implemented now to deal with IP barriers to expand production and access to COVID-19 therapeutics and diagnostics, while the so far elusive decision on whether to extend a TRIPS waiver to cover these products is taken by WTO.
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.