World Trade Organization (WTO)

Research Paper 158, 15 June 2022

Twenty Years After Doha: An Analysis of the Use of the TRIPS Agreement’s Public Health Flexibilities in India

By Muhammad Zaheer Abbas, PhD  

The World Trade Organization (WTO) linked intellectual property protection with trade. The WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS Agreement), however, included a number of public health flexibilities in order to provide latitude to the Member States to tailor their national patent laws to fit their individual needs. In 2001, the Doha Declaration further clarified and reaffirmed the existing TRIPS flexibilities. This paper argues that India has taken the lead role in enacting the TRIPS Agreement’s substantive and procedural patent flexibilities by introducing unique legislative measures to deal with the problem of access to medicines. This article evaluates India’s use of section 3(d) as a subject matter exclusivity provision. It examines constitutional validity and TRIPS compliance of section 3(d). It also evaluates India’s use of the flexibility to define the term “inventive step”. Moreover, this article evaluates India’s use of compulsory licensing, the most notable exception to patent rights provided under the TRIPS Agreement. This empirical study is important in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has once again highlighted the same public health issues that the Doha Declaration sought to address twenty years ago.

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Research Paper 157, 3 June 2022

WTO Moratorium on Customs Duties on Electronic Transmissions: How much tariff revenue have developing countries lost?

By Rashmi Banga

This research paper highlights the adverse impacts of the continuing WTO moratorium on customs duties on electronic transmissions on the developing and least developed countries. The rapidly progressing digitalization along with the ongoing pandemic and the food crisis are creating multiple demands on the government revenues. However, because of the moratorium almost all developing, and least developed countries are losing tariff revenues especially at the time when they are most needed. Not only are they losing the fiscal space but are also losing their regulatory space as they are unable to regulate the growing imports of digitizable products, especially of luxury items like the movies, music and video games. It is estimated that in the period 2017-2020, developing countries and LDCs lost $56 billion of tariff revenue, of which $48 billion were lost by the developing countries and $8 billion by the least developed countries. It is interesting to note that this loss of tariff revenue is from the imports of just 49 products (at HS six-digit). With no clarity on the definition of electronic transmissions (ET) and thereby on the scope of the moratorium, the continuation of the WTO moratorium on customs duties on ET can lead to substantive tariff revenue losses for developing and least developed countries in the future.

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Research Paper 155, 27 May 2022

Manufacturing for Export: A TRIPS-Consistent Pro-Competitive Exception  

by Carlos M. Correa and Juan I. Correa

The paper discusses the flexibilization of the sui generis system of supplementary protection certificates (SPCs) under European law recently introduced to allow for the manufacturing, stockpiling and export of covered products. Against this background, it examines the viability under the Agreement on Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (the TRIPS Agreement) of an exception allowing for the manufacture and export of patent-protected products. It concludes that such an exception would promote competition and enhance access to medicines (including biologicals) for the general public while being consistent with Article 30 of the TRIPS Agreement if read in accordance with the principles of interpretation of customary international law.

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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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Policy Brief 109, 31 March 2022

Draft Fisheries Subsidies Agreement: some key issues to address for a sustainable catch

 By Peter Lunenborg

This Policy Brief reviews the draft Chair’s text for a Fisheries Subsidies Agreement (WT/MIN(21)/W/5). Pursuant to Sustainable Development Goal 14.6, any agreement must effectively discipline fisheries subsidies especially of larger scale fisheries and distant water fishing fleets and must cater to the needs of developing countries including in the form of effective Special and Differential Treatment (S&DT).

This Brief highlights several provisions of the text which would need to be improved to reach its mandated objectives. These provisions include the fisheries management flexibilities in Article 4.3 and Article 5.1.1 which would result in the continuation of fisheries subsidies; provisions on subsidies to fishing in Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (ABNJ), subsidies to vessels not flying the flag of the subsidizing Member and non-specific fuel subsidies; due process requirements for determinations of Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing by coastal Members; treatment of subsidies to finance companies; the proposal purported to address forced labour; treatment of Regional Fisheries Management Organisations/Arrangements (RFMO/As) in the text; the relationship between the future Agreement and the Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures (ASCM) including their Committees; and the Agreement’s S&DT provisions.

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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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SC Report on Direct Monetary Costs of IP, 2 March 2022

Direct Monetary Costs of Intellectual Property for Developing Countries

 A changing balance for TRIPS?

It is startling that almost no discussion exists on the direct monetary costs for countries of the IP international regulatory framework. Indeed, on top of the inherent costs on ´access´ or ´learning´ abilities, there are some important tangible, measurable, direct monetary costs to countries. These costs are the financial payments that occur simply for the use of intellectual property. These payments are relevant in any discussion on the role of IP in the context of development.

An overview of some findings is presented in this report, with the aim of promoting an assessment and discussion at the WTO and other fora whenever there is a consideration of the impacts of the IP international regulatory framework, notably the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS Agreement) in individual countries.

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Research Paper 146, 16 February 2022

A Review of WTO Disputes on TRIPS: Implications for Use of Flexibilities for Public Health   

By Nirmalya Syam

The use of TRIPS flexibilities by WTO members involves interpretation of the obligations under TRIPS which can be challenged under the WTO dispute settlement system. Mutually agreed solutions, panel or Appellate Body decisions adopted in such disputes can thus impact the scope of TRIPS flexibilities to address, among others, public health objectives. This paper explores how the WTO dispute settlement system applies to disputes under TRIPS, and reviews the outcomes of the disputes relating to the implementation of TRIPS obligations in the context of pharmaceutical products. The paper points to both systemic and substantive concerns arising from the application of the dispute settlement system to disputes under TRIPS. It finds that the dispute settlement system is not aligned to the unique nature of the TRIPS Agreement in the WTO as an agreement that creates positive obligations, and consequently how jurisprudence arising under disputes concerning other covered agreements having negative obligations, have led panels and Appellate Bodies to adopt narrow interpretations of the scope of TRIPS flexibilities in some of the few disputes arising under the TRIPS Agreement. Moreover, mutually agreed settlements adopted in the context of some of the disputes arising under TRIPS have also led to the adoption of TRIPS plus standards, limiting the scope of TRIPS flexibilities. However, in a recent decision, the WTO panel has also relied on the Doha Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health as a subsequent agreement to guide the interpretation of its provisions. In this context, the paper advances some suggestions to address the systemic and substantive issues arising from the application of the dispute settlement system to the TRIPS Agreement.

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South Centre Semester Report, July – December 2021

South Centre Semester Report, July – December 2021

The South Centre undertakes policy-oriented research on issues, as defined in its Work Program (https://www.southcentre.int/work-program/), that are relevant to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. It supports the countries of the South to effectively participate in negotiating processes in order to build up a multilateral system that supports and does not undermine development efforts. It also provides policy and technical advice and capacity building in support of countries and institutions of the South. Catalogues of the publications of the Centre can be found at https://www.southcentre.int/publications-catalogues/.

The South Centre expands its reach and impact by leveraging cooperation with other international organizations, research institutions, academia and civil society.

This Semester Report is an account of how the South Centre’s Secretariat has fulfilled the Centre’s mission through the different workstreams for the period July – December 2021.

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Research Paper 144, 27 January 2022

A TRIPS-COVID Waiver and Overlapping Commitments to Protect Intellectual Property Rights Under International IP and Investment Agreements

by Henning Grosse Ruse-Khan and Federica Paddeu

This paper considers legal implications that are likely to emerge from the implementation of a TRIPS Waiver decision. Assuming that a Waiver is adopted in the form presented in the May 2021 proposal by South Africa and India et al, we review the interaction between the Waiver and other commitments to protect IP rights under international IP and investment treaties. Our principal research question is to analyze whether domestic measures implementing the Waiver are compatible with the implementing State’s other obligations to protect IP rights established under multilateral IP treaties, IP and Investment Chapters of FTAs as well as BITs. In light of typical examples for such overlapping commitments, we first focus on (1) defences directly affecting compatibility with these treaty commitments (here referred to as ‘internal’ defences). In a second part, we review (2) potential defences under general international law that may serve to justify (in other words, to preclude the wrongfulness of) such measures. We conclude that often internal and/or general defences will operate to support the implementation of the Waiver despite overlapping commitments in international IP and investment law. This conclusion is reinforced by a purpose-oriented understanding of the TRIPS Waiver as authorizing measures necessary to achieve the goal of “unimpeded, timely and secure access” for all to covered medical technologies “for the prevention, treatment or containment of COVID-19”.

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Investment Policy Brief No. 24, 9 December 2021

Potential Claims related to IP and Public Health in Investment Agreements: COVID-19, the Proposed TRIPS Waiver and Beyond

By Cynthia Ho

An under-examined issue during the COVID-19 crisis is the potential liability of countries under investment agreements for taking steps to mitigate COVID issues.  This Policy Brief provides an overview of how countries may be liable to companies for taking domestic action to protect public health, including pre-COVID claims related to Intellectual Property (IP), as well as possible claims because of COVID emergency measures, including claims that could result if the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Waiver was adopted.  The current COVID-19 crisis opens the opportunity to consider and reevaluate the unnecessary threat of international agreements that allow for investment claims and potentially consider their termination.

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SouthViews No. 231, 29 November 2021

Waive IP Rights & Save Lives

By Srividhya Ragavan

In October of 2020, when India and South Africa proposed a waiver from certain provisions of the TRIPS agreement, it was meant to increase local manufacturing capacity in these countries. The waiver was proposed as a tool to kick-start prevention, containment and treatment of COVID-19. While there is an imminent need to meet a growing supply-demand gap for all medical products, COVID-19 related products are urgently required in poorer nations to contain the pandemic. The waiver has an additional role to play in the larger trade schema. In enabling vaccination of populations across the globe, the waiver would be critical to normalize global trade. The paper below captures the benefits of the waiver and compares it with the existing flexibilities under the trade regime, being compulsory licensing.

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