- India, South Africa seek a time-bound waiver of IP, patents’ protection under the TRIPS Agreement of WTO
- WTO asked to conduct a referendum under Article IX of TRIPS
- Emphasis on global co-operation for containment of Covid pandemic
THD NewsDesk, Geneva: On October 2, 2020, India and South Africa submitted a joint proposal to the WTO, advising relaxation of the patent protection provisions under the TRIPS agreement till the pandemic ensues. The Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights or TRIPS is a WTO agreement that lays down essential norms for national governments’ regulation of different forms of intellectual property (IP).
Recommendations of the Submission:
Through the submission, the countries contended in favour of middle and low-income countries disproportionately affected by the pandemic’s devastating impact. These countries’ socio-economic conditions belonging to the developing or under-developed category have been adversely impacted since the epidemic hit the world. Thus, in the absence of a fool-proof vaccine effective against coronavirus, the countries have demanded ready access to affordable medications and treatment, fruitful in combatting the virus. They have advocated that the provisions protecting these therapeutics’ patent rights be made flexible in the enormous interest of constraining the pandemic’s fangs. However, the waiver period will be determined at the next session of the TRIPS Council between October 15-16, 2020.
“There are several reports about intellectual property rights hindering or potentially hindering timely provisioning of affordable medical products to the patients. It is also reported that some WTO Members have carried out urgent legal amendments to their national patent laws to expedite the process of issuing compulsory/government use licenses,” the submission added.
Highlighting the concerns of developing countries, both the nations brought forth how all the WTO members are struggling with the pandemic’s challenges. Further, most states have declared it a national emergency as their health care systems are crumbling under the burden of thousands of confirmed cases per day. They put forward the demand for timely access to inexpensive medical products, including:
- Diagnostic kits
- Medical masks
- PPE kits
- Medication for the prevention and treatment of Covid patients
Elaborating on the issue, KM Gopakumar, Legal Advisor of Third World Network (TWN), commented, “The TRIPS waiver proposal if agreed by other WTO member countries would help the fight against COVID-19 by promoting local manufacturing of medical products required for the COVID- 19 response. In the absence of IP protection, it can facilitate the technology transfer more easily and facilitate local production. This would in turn bring competition in the market of medical products and bring down the prices. Such a move, in any way, will financially affect the companies because the R&D functioning for COVID-19 is predominantly through public funding.”
Gopakumar added, “Though Article IX of the Agreement Establishing, WTO allows taking decisions on waiver by three fourth of the majority, generally such decisions in the WTO are taken by consensus. Therefore, the consensus of other WTO members is required to give the legal effect to the proposal”.
The pandemic’s swift spread is a global concern as more than 333,722,075 people worldwide who have tested positive till now. Besides, the Covid mortality figure stands at 1,009,270, which is alarming. In the wake of a global health catastrophe, WTO must ensure the provision of potential medications to all its members, unhindered by intellectual property rights such as patents, industrial designs, and copyright. Hence, all nations must rise to the occasion as a global community by desisting from hoarding medical products and keeping the world updated on new developments relating to COVID-19 therapy.