Medicines and Intellectual Property: 10 Years of the WHO Global Strategy
By Dr. Germán Velásquez
The negotiations of the Intergovernmental Working Group on Public Health, Innovation and Intellectual Property (IGWG) (2006-2008), undertaken by the Member States of the World Health Organization (WHO), were the result of a deadlock in the 2006 World Health Assembly where the Member States were unable to reach an agreement on what to do with the 60 recommendations in the report on Public Health, Innovation and Intellectual Property submitted to the Assembly in the same year by a group of experts designated by the Director-General of the WHO. The result of these negotiations was the Global Strategy and Plan of Action on Public Health, Innovation and Intellectual Property (GSPOA) that was approved by the World Health Assembly in 2008. One of the objectives of the IGWG’s Global Strategy and Plan of Action was to substantially reform the pharmaceutical innovation system in view of its failure to produce affordable medicines for diseases that affect the greater part of the world’s population living in developing countries. The intellectual property (IP) rights imposed by the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) and the trade agreements could become some of the main obstacles to accessing medicines. The GSPOA made a critical analysis of this reality and opened the door to the search for new solutions to this problem. Ten years after the approval of the GSPOA, the results are uncertain and poor.
Intellectual Property and Access to Medicines: An Introduction to Key Issues – Some Basic Terms and Concepts
Intellectual property and patents in particular, have become one of the most debated issues on access to medicines, since the creation of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the coming into force of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). Patents are by no means the only barriers to access to life-saving medicines, but they can play a significant, or even determinant, role. During the term of patent protection, the patent holder’s ability to determine prices, in the absence of competition, can result in the medicine being unaffordable to the majority of people living in developing countries. This first issue of the “South Centre Training Materials” aims, in its first part, to provide an introduction to key issues in the field of access to medicines and intellectual property. The second part describes and defines some basic terms and concepts of this relatively new area of pharmaceuticals policies which are the trade related aspects of intellectual property rights that regulate the research, development and supply of medicines and health technologies in general.
Inequality is one of the greatest challenges that the world needs to face. Inequality is intimately linked with poverty. Although there has been progress in reducing poverty, a large part of the global population (overwhelmingly living in developing countries) is still denied access to a dignified life. While no poverty and reduced inequality are two of the outstanding Sustainable Development Goals, these and other goals are unlikely to be achieved by 2030. In fact, inequality is on the rise. Changing this situation will certainly require significant efforts at the national and regional level. But it also requires an international architecture that supports those efforts by respecting the policy space that countries need and coordinating constructive actions within the multilateral system. The current initiatives to ‘reform’ this system will only be legitimate if they recognize the gaps in the levels of development and contribute to effectively address them under a fair, pro-development system of rules. Please see last month’s SouthViews on “Understanding global inequality in the 21st century” by Jayati Ghosh, development economist and Professor of Economics at Jawaharlal Nehru University.
Mainstreaming or Dilution? Intellectual Property and Development in WIPO
By Nirmalya Syam
In 2007 Member States of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) unanimously adopted a set of 45 recommendations which constitute the WIPO Development Agenda. Developing countries sought to give new direction to WIPO through the Development Agenda, away from the pursuit of facilitating and strengthening protection, acquisition and enforcement of intellectual property (IP) rights as an end in itself towards an approach that would be sensitive to the impact of IP on development, both in terms of opportunities as well as costs. This paper explores whether development considerations have been adequately addressed by WIPO since its creation as the United International Bureau for the Protection of Intellectual Property (BIRPI) in the nineteenth century. The paper also analyses whether the implementation of the WIPO Development Agenda adopted in 2007 has shaped the current vision of the WIPO Secretariat and its Member States to address the impact of IP on development; and whether implementation of the Development Agenda has facilitated the use of IP law and policy as a tool that responds to advancing innovation, industrial, health, agricultural, education and other development policies in developing countries. The paper finds that the approach towards IP in WIPO continues to be dominated by a perspective that pursues acquisition, protection, management and enforcement of IP rights as an end in itself. Conflicting interpretations of development orientation have adversely impacted the implementation of the Development Agenda in the spirit in which the developing countries had proposed the Development Agenda. The paper recommends developing countries to undertake cross regional coordination to enhance their level of engagement on IP and development, advance specific suggestions for achieving greater impact on addressing development challenges through specific activities including projects in the areas of technical assistance as well as norm-setting, pursue governance reforms in WIPO to ensure greater representation of developing countries in the decision making bodies of WIPO and in the staff composition of the WIPO Secretariat, amend the WIPO Convention to align its mandate on IP promotion to the development needs and challenges of its Member States and the development goals of the United Nations (UN), and also pursue a review of the relationship between the UN and WIPO as a UN specialized agency in the UN Economic and Social Council.
Time for a Collective Response to the United States Special 301 Report on Intellectual Property
By Viviana Muñoz-Tellez, Nirmalya Syam and Thamara Romero
This policy brief discusses the annual Special 301 report issued by the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR). The report is a unilateral tool of the US to pursue its foreign intellectual property (IP) policy by exerting pressure on countries to reform their IP laws and practices. Developing countries are particularly susceptible to this threat. The report identifies countries that are considered by the US as not providing adequate and effective protection of IP of rights holders from the US. The selection of countries is biased to the concerns raised by segments of the US industry. The report targets balanced provisions in countries’ legislations to ensure that IP rights do not hinder the ability of the government to adopt measures for promoting development priorities, particularly in the area of public health. A uniform and collective international response by the affected countries is long overdue. The way forward is to continue dialogue in appropriate multilateral fora, recognizing the need for all countries to maintain policy space to use IP as a domestic policy tool.
South Centre Quarterly Report, 1 October to 31 December 2018
This report summarizes the programmatic activities of the South Centre during the period 1st October to 31 December 2018. It is intended to provide information, organized by Program and themes, about recent developments in the areas covered by the South Centre’s Work Program and publications made and meetings organized or co-organized by the Centre to examine particular issues or to provide analytical support for international negotiations taking place in various fora. It also informs about external conferences and other meetings where the Centre has participated.
South Centre Quarterly Report, 1 July to 30 September 2018
This report summarizes the programmatic activities of the South Centre during the period 1 July to 30 September 2018. It is intended to provide information, organized by Program and themes, about recent developments in the areas covered by the South Centre’s Work Program and publications and meetings organized or co-organized by the Centre to examine particular issues or to provide analytical support for international negotiations taking place in various fora. It also informs about external conferences and other meetings where the Centre has participated.
South Centre Statement to the WIPO Assemblies 2018
The South Centre is the intergovernmental organization of developing countries with 54 member States across Africa, Asia and Central and Latin America, that is supportive of multilateral work towards an inclusive, balanced and flexible international intellectual property system that benefits all countries and all types of users.
South Centre Statement for the Informal Consultation on the Roadmap on Access to Medicines
The draft roadmap is an important work in progress that needs to be further detailed with clear deliverables and timelines. The roadmap will need to ensure complementarity of its work and the implementation of the Global Strategy and Plan of Action on Public Health, Innovation and Intellectual Property (GSPOA).