TRIPS Waiver

Research Paper 170, 17 November 2022

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.

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Research Paper 169, 8 November 2022

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.

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Research Paper 168, 28 October 2022

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.

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Webinar: The Future of TRIPS, 11 October 2022

Webinar: The Future of the TRIPS Agreement (Part 2)

11 October 2022

Virtual event

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?

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SC Statement – TRIPS waiver, 21 June 2022

TRIPS WAIVER: AN INSUFFICIENT MULTILATERAL RESPONSE. TRIPS-CONSISTENT NATIONAL ACTIONS ARE CALLED FOR

After almost 20 months from the submission of a “TRIPS waiver” request by India and South Africa, co-sponsored by 65 WTO member States (and supported by more than 100 WTO Members), a “Ministerial Decision on the TRIPS Agreement” (WT/MIN(22)/W/15/Rev.2) (‘the Decision’) was belatedly adopted by the 12th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization on 17 June 2022.

This Decision does recognize that, as argued by developing countries and a large number of organizations and academics, intellectual property (IP) poses obstacles for the expansion of manufacturing capacity and timely access to health products and technologies to respond to COVID-19. The response to the pandemic required a rapid increase in the supply of countermeasures, while technology holders refused to share their technologies.

Not only developed countries successfully deviated the negotiations towards an outcome different from what was pursued by developing countries’ diplomats; the process for its adoption did not allow for the full and informed participation of the latter. The process leading to the Decision confirms the need to fully use the TRIPS flexibilities to address emergency and other situations where public health and other public interests are at stake, and to review the current international IP regime (including article 31bis of the TRIPS Agreement) to accelerate the sharing of technology, including know-how.

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SouthViews No. 238, 20 June 2022

Doha Twenty Years On – Has The Promise Been Betrayed?

By Yousuf Vawda and Bonginkosi Shozi

The Doha Declaration’s twentieth anniversary in November 2021 has taken place in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. The experience of the past two years has demonstrated that the very factors that necessitated the Declaration—the problems of inequitable access to medicines and other health technologies for the world’s poor—continue to plague us.

Has the promise of the Doha Declaration been betrayed? In this contribution, we critically engage with this question, focusing our appraisal on whether the Doha Declaration has been successful in fulfilling its commitments to: (a) advancing access to health; (b) equity and fairness in the relations between WTO Members States; and (c) recognising perspectives from the developing world in formulating IP policy. Ultimately, we conclude that the promise of the Doha Declaration has failed to materialise.

There are many reasons for this. For instance, developed country governments have intentionally undermined the Declaration by their insistence on inserting more onerous TRIPS-plus provisions in free trade agreements and economic partnership agreements, which decimate the limited flexibilities permitted by the TRIPS Agreement. And where countries have sought to use such flexibilities, they have been assailed by an over-litigious pharmaceutical industry, and threats by governments such as the US 301 Watch List. For these reasons, we argue for the need for alternative paradigms to challenge Western hegemony and norms regarding IP and other trade-related issues, and for effectively challenging this through the application of a “decoloniality” approach.

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STATEMENT – MEETING OF NAM HEALTH MINISTERS ON 75TH WHA, 20 May 2022

STATEMENT BY CARLOS M. CORREA, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE SOUTH CENTRE, TO THE MEETING OF THE NAM HEALTH MINISTERS ON THE OCCASION OF THE 75TH WORLD HEALTH ASSEMBLY, MAY 20, 2022

The South Centre has closely followed issues concerning access to medicines and the work of the WHO over the years. In the last couple of years, it has provided analyses and advice in connection with the COVID-19 crisis that has so severely affected the members of NAM.

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Policy Brief 110, 5 May 2022

Analysis of the Outcome Text of the Informal Quadrilateral Discussions on the TRIPS COVID-19 Waiver

By Carlos M. Correa and Nirmalya Syam

Almost one  and a half years after the proposal for a waiver of certain provisions of the TRIPS Agreement regarding health technologies for COVID-19 was proposed by India and South Africa with the support of the majority of WTO Members, the TRIPS Council has been unable to reach consensus on the proposed waiver or engage in text negotiations. In this context, the TRIPS Council agreed to suspend the discussions to allow the possibility of some solution to emerge from informal high-level consultations between the European Union, the United States of America, India and South Africa. Recently, the WTO Director-General transmitted the outcome of the informal consultations along with a draft text to the TRIPS Council. In this context, this policy brief analyzes the elements of the draft text that has been transmitted to the TRIPS Council. The proposed solution, which offers clarifications and limited waivers on some of the provisions governing compulsory licenses on patents relating to vaccines, reflects developed countries’ strong opposition to the broader waiver sought by the proponents to rapidly expand manufacturing capacity and the supply of health products needed to address the pandemic.

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Documento de Investigación 147, 28 de febrero de 2022

¿Podrán las negociaciones en la organización mundial de la salud resultar en un marco justo para la prevención, la preparación y la respuesta ante pandemias como bienes públicos globales?

Por Viviana Muñoz Tellez

Los Estados miembros de la OMS, tras haber acordado los objetivos de avanzar equidad y solidaridad para la futura prevención, preparación y respuesta a la pandemia, ahora deben ponerlos en práctica. Este documento avanza sugerencias para las discusiones en los procesos en curso de la OMS de 1) el examen de las recomendaciones que está revisando el Grupo de Trabajo sobre el Fortalecimiento de la Preparación y la Respuesta de la OMS a las Emergencias Sanitarias, 2) la consideración de posibles enmiendas al Reglamento Sanitario Internacional (RSI) de 2005, y 3) la elaboración de un proyecto de texto para un instrumento internacional sobre la preparación y la respuesta ante una pandemia.

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Document de Recherche 147, 28 février 2022

Les négociations au sein de l’Organisation mondiale de la santé peuvent-elles aboutir à un cadre juste pour la prévention, la préparation et la riposte aux pandémies en tant que bien public mondial?

Par Viviana Muñoz Tellez

Ce document avance que les États membres de l’OMS, ayant accepté de promouvoir des objectifs d’équité et de solidarité pour la prévention, la préparation et la riposte futures aux pandémies, doivent maintenant les mettre en œuvre. Le document propose des suggestions pour les processus en cours à l’OMS concernant : 1) l’examen des recommandations en cours de révision par le Groupe de travail sur le renforcement de la préparation et de la riposte de l’OMS aux urgences sanitaires, 2) l’examen des amendements potentiels au Règlement sanitaire international (RSI) 2005, et 3) l’élaboration d’un projet de texte pour un instrument international sur la préparation et la riposte aux pandémies.

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SouthViews No. 235, 10 March 2022

The WTO TRIPS Waiver and Essential Security Rights in 2022

By Dr. Alexander Beyleveld

Almost two years have passed since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and we are still far from bringing the pandemic to an end. One of the main reasons for this is the fact that large vaccine inequities remain worldwide. In order to address this problem, a large subset of World Trade Organization (WTO) members are in favour of waiving certain obligations contained in the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS Agreement). Against this backdrop, this article contemplates the legal necessity of such a waiver given that Article 73 of the TRIPS Agreement contains essential security exceptions which may render the obligations in question inapplicable under the interpretation that the pandemic affects law and public order interests.

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