India, South Africa seek waiver in IPR laws
Amid the coronavirus pandemic, India and South Africa on 2 October 2020 proposed a waiver from certain provisions of the global intellectual property rights (IPR) agreement to prevent, contain and treat Covid-19 through unimpeded and timely access to affordable medical products including diagnostic kits, vaccines, medicines, personal protective equipment and ventilators.
- Stating that developing countries and least developed countries are especially disproportionately impacted, they sought a waiver from obligations of members to implement or apply provisions related to copyright or related acts, industrial designs, patents and protection of Undisclosed Information in the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS Agreement).
- Citing reports of IPRs hindering timely provisioning of affordable medical products to the patients, they highlighted that certain members are amending their national patent laws to expedite the process of issuing compulsory or government use licenses.
- A particular concern for countries with insufficient or no manufacturing capacity are the requirements and consequently the cumbersome and lengthy process for the import and export of pharmaceutical products, they said in a joint proposal made to the World Trade Organization (WTO) on 2 October 2020.
- They said it is important for WTO members to work together to ensure that IPRs such as patents, industrial designs, copyright and protection of undisclosed information do not create barriers to the timely access to affordable medical products including vaccines and medicines or to scaling-up of research, development, manufacturing and supply of medical products essential to combat Covid-19.
- As on October 1, there were about 34 million confirmed cases globally with above one million confirmed deaths.
- Beyond patents, other IPRs may also pose a barrier, with limited options to overcome those barriers, India and South Africa said, adding that many countries especially developing countries may face institutional and legal difficulties when using flexibilities available in the TRIPS Agreement.
- They said the waiver should continue until widespread vaccination is in place globally, and the majority of the world's population has developed immunity.