World Trade Organization Least-Developed Countries Request Waiver of Intellectual Property Rights on Pharma Products

Thursday, February 26, 2015

This week at the World Trade Organization intellectual property committee meeting, least-developed countries submitted a request to extend a waiver allowing them not to enforce intellectual property rights on pharmaceutical products. The countries have extended the waiver before, but this time they are seeking to make it indefinite, until they are no longer considered LDCs.

Least-developed countries are disproportionately exposed to the health risks associated with poverty, and “patent protection contributes to high costs, placing many critical treatments outside the reach of LDCs,” said a communication [pdf] by the group, proposing to extend the current waiver to intellectual property rights enforcement past the deadline of 2016.

In June 2013, a general waiver exempting LDCs from the obligation to enforce IP rights was extended to 2021 (IPW, WTO/TRIPS, 2 August 2013). This extension covers all products, including pharmaceutical products, and has been running in parallel with the special waiver on pharmaceutical products granted to LDCs until 2016.

At the 24-25 February Council for the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), the LDC group submitted a request to extend the 2016 deadline and in particular to prolong the transitional period for as long as the WTO member remains an LDC. This element was part of the request for the general extension in 2013 but was resisted by a number of countries (IPW, WTO/TRIPS, 12 June 2013).

LDCs, building upon TRIPS Article 66.1 (Least-Developed Country Members) providing that the Council for TRIPS “shall, upon duly motivated request by a least developed country Member, accord extensions of this period,” further request that:

LDCs be exempted from obligations under TRIPS Article 70.8 (Protection of Existing Subject Matter), relating to patent protection for pharmaceutical and agricultural chemical products, and Article 70.9, relating to exclusive marketing rights, as long as the WTO member remains an LDC. The proposed extension is not intended to apply to agricultural chemical products, a source said.

Source: Intellectual Property Watch (link opens in a new window)

Health Care