South Centre Semester Report, 1 January to 30 June 2020
This Semester Report summarizes the activities undertaken by the South Centre during the period 1st January to 30 June 2020. It is intended to provide information, organized by themes, about recent developments in the areas covered by the Centre’s Work Program, meetings organized or co-organized by the Centre to examine particular issues or provide analytical support for negotiations taking place in various international fora, and conferences and other meetings where the Centre has participated. It also informs about publications made.
Médicaments et propriété intellectuelle: 10 ans de la stratégie mondiale de l’OMS
Par Dr. Germán Velásquez
Les négociations du Groupe de travail intergouvernemental sur la santé publique, l’innovation et la propriété intellectuelle connu sous le nom de “IGWG” (2006-2008), menées par les Etats Membres de l’OMS, sont le résultat d’une impasse à l’Assemblée mondiale de la santé du 6 décembre 2006 où les Etats Membres n’ont pu parvenir à un accord sur les 60 recommandations du rapport” Santé publique, innovation et propriété intellectuelle “soumis la même année par un groupe d’experts désigné par le Directeur général de l’OMS. Le résultat de ces négociations devint la “Stratégie mondiale et Plan d’action pour la santé publique, l’innovation et la propriété intellectuelle” (GSPOA), approuvé par l’Assemblée mondiale de la santé en 2008. Un des objectifs de la Stratégie mondiale élaboré par l’IGWG était de réformer en profondeur le système d’innovation pharmaceutique, en raison de son incapacité à produire des médicaments abordables contre les maladies qui affligent une grande partie de la population du monde vivant dans les pays en développement. Les droits de propriété intellectuelle (PI) imposés par l’Accord sur les aspects des droits de propriété intellectuelle liés au commerce (ADPIC) et les accords commerciaux pourraient devenir des principaux obstacles à l’accès aux médicaments. Le GSPOA a fait une analyse critique de cette réalité et a mené à la recherche de nouvelles solutions à ce problème. Dix ans après l’approbation du GSPOA, les résultats restent incertains et médiocres.
The TRIPS Agreement Article 73 Security Exceptions and the COVID-19 Pandemic
By Frederick Abbott
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused Governments to contemplate measures to override patents and other intellectual property rights (IPRs) in order to facilitate production and distribution of vaccines, treatments, diagnostics and medical devices. This paper discusses whether the COVID-19 pandemic may be considered an “emergency in international relations” and how WTO Member States may invoke Article 73 (“Security Exceptions”) of the TRIPS Agreement as the legal basis for overriding IPRs otherwise required to be made available or enforced. It concludes that the pandemic constitutes an emergency in international relations within the meaning of Article 73(b)(iii) and that this provision allows Governments to take actions necessary to protect their essential security interests.
Modulos de Introduccion a la Propiedad Intelectual y Salud Pública
Este libro contiene cuatro módulos para la capacitación en materia de propiedad intelectual y salud pública. Su objetivo es presentar una introducción a las diversas categorías de derechos de propiedad intelectual y, en particular, ilustrar sobre los derechos aplicables a la producción y comercialización de medicamentos en el marco de las llamadas ‘flexibilidades’ contenidas en el Acuerdo sobre los Aspectos de los Derechos de Propiedad Intelectual relacionados con el Comercio de la Organización Mundial del Comercio. Los módulos proporcionan elementos para comprender el alcance y las implicaciones de los derechos de propiedad intelectual, especialmente las patentes de invención, en el acceso a los medicamentos. Ellos brindan asimismo pautas para el diseño y la aplicación de esos derechos en una manera consistente con dicho Acuerdo y con políticas de protección de la salud pública. Los módulos contienen información general y enfoques prácticos para orientar a los encargados de formular y aplicar políticas públicas en el tratamiento del tema, tanto en el campo administrativo como judicial.
Coronavirus pandemic: the vaccine as exit strategy
A GLOBAL HURDLE RACE AGAINST TIME WITH A SPLIT JURY
By Francisco Colman Sercovich
Sars-CoV-2, a novel pathogen, submits a stern warning, a clarion call, on the huge human costs of shortsightedness, inaction and lessons lost in the face of common predicaments at the global level. Yet, a number of key actors remain oblivious, including ethically-challenged politicians seeking to elbow their way to the front of the queue at the expense of the poorest and most vulnerable nations and communities. Contrary to expectations being formed, a safe and effective vaccine for the Covid-19 strain once, if ever, attained, is the best way out but unlikely to do as a silver bullet in the midst of the complexities and unknowns at play.
As a result of the harmful impact of the pandemic and ensuing policy aftermath, the world runs the risk of squandering the gains barely made in the fight against poverty over the last few decades – a looming scenario of egregious global governance failure, in view of the eight close calls recently received (three flu epidemics or near-flu epidemics, two Sars episodes, one Mers episode, Zika & Ebola). A promptly and universally distributed vaccine promises to prevent future disease outbreaks. However, many scientific, economic and distributional hurdles stand in the way. Whilst each day counts, the survival of hundreds of millions of lives hangs in the balance as health issues and those pertaining to livelihoods, nutrition, schooling and deprivation are so closely interdependent. Can we rule out the need to resort to internationally sanctioned legal remedies as an inescapable response?
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.
The UN General Assembly Resolutions on COVID-19: Solemn Assurances for Access to Health Technologies without an Action Plan
By Nirmalya Syam
The United Nations (UN) has the mandate under the Charter of the United Nations to promote solutions to international health problems, such as the global COVID-19 pandemic. While the UN secretariat, led by the Secretary-General, has undertaken a number of initiatives in response to COVID-19, member State initiatives in the UN has so far been limited to two resolutions adopted by the UN General Assembly. Member States are currently negotiating an omnibus resolution of the General Assembly on COVID-19. This policy brief analyzes the extent to which the General Assembly addresses the issue of timely, equitable and affordable access to health technologies, particularly for developing countries who have greater vulnerability to COVID-19. The adopted resolutions make very broad pledges for global solidarity but lack specific commitments to guide actions by member States. The omnibus resolution currently under negotiation should provide specific guidance to member States on actions to be taken based on the principles of solidarity and multilateral cooperation in diverse aspects impacted by COVID-19.
Equitable Access to COVID-19 Related Health Technologies: A Global Priority
By Dr. Zeleke Temesgen Boru
Since COVID-19 was first identified, infections from the virus and the death toll have spiked abysmally. The pandemic has also paralyzed the economies (particularly, global trade, tourism and transport) of many countries. The dire social and psychological ramifications associated with the pandemic are also immense. The threat posed by COVID-19 on global health and the economic downturn resulting thereof necessitates the development of health technologies (such as medicines and vaccines). A global effort to invent new health technologies or the likely application of existing technologies is also underway since the outbreak of the pandemic. Even though the race to develop these technologies can be hailed as a pivotal undertaking, the development of health technologies alone may not expedite equitable access to the outcome of such development. Particularly, the lack of access to health technologies may befall if the conventional model of health technology pricing, which is derived from monopoly rights created by IP protection, is set. However, legal as well as policy tools can be used to overcome such hurdles and ensure global access to health technologies. In this sense, this paper discusses plausible legal and policy options that can help to accelerate access to health technologies targeting COVID-19.
Articles 7 and 8 as the basis for interpretation of the TRIPS Agreement
By Thamara Romero
Articles 7 and 8 of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) play a central role in assuring the members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) the right to implement public health measures. The Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health is also an important element for the interpretation of any provision of the TRIPS Agreement that may have public health implications. The most recent and prominent example of the use of articles 7 and 8 for interpretation in WTO law can be found in the WTO Panel decision of 2018 on the Australia – Tobacco Plain Packaging dispute.
Message from the South Centre at the launch of the “Solidarity Call To Action” by the President of Costa Rica and the Director-General of the WHO
The architecture for access to medicines and vaccines, which is already complex to manage in normal times, requires even more structured actions in times of a pandemic by the scale of the demand and the urgency in meeting it. This call for solidarity to bring together the technologies and treatments related to COVID 19 is part of the necessary solution. It complements other available instruments for States to facilitate access to prevention and treatment for the population, including through the use of the flexibilities of the WTO TRIPS Agreement.
COVID-19 and WTO: Debunking Developed Countries’ Narratives on Trade Measures
By Aileen Kwa, Fernando Rosales and Peter Lunenborg
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, developing countries at the World Trade Organization (WTO) are faced with demands to i) permanently liberalize their markets in health products, and also in agriculture; ii) ban export restrictions in agriculture; and iii) conclude new digital trade rules including liberalizing online payment systems, and agreeing to free data flows. There seems to be a confusion between short-term and long-term responses. For the short-term, governments must take measures needed to address the crisis, including liberalizing needed health products. However, permanently bringing tariffs to zero for the health and agricultural sectors will not support developing countries to build domestic industries. Export restrictions in agriculture cannot be given up. They can be a very important tool for stabilizing domestic prices and for food security. New digital trade rules at the WTO would foreclose the possibility for countries to impose data sovereignty regulations, including data localization requirements that can support their infant digital platforms and industries.
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.