Posts Tagged: "World Trade Organization"

Iancu, Kilbride, Israel Separate Fact from Fiction During IPWatchdog LIVE Panel on TRIPS IP Waiver

On Monday of IPWatchdog LIVE in Dallas, a panel on “The TRIPS IP Waiver: Separating Fact & Fiction” was moderated by president and CEO of the PCT learning center and founding partner of Berenato & White, John White, and featured IP leaders Andrei Iancu, Patrick Kilbride, and Chris Israel. The Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS) agreement is an international agreement among members of the World Trade Organization (WTO), which sets minimum standards in the international rules governing intellectual property. In 2020, India and South Africa proposed a TRIPS Agreement waiver proposal that would temporarily waive intellectual property rights protections for technologies needed to prevent, contain, or treat COVID-19, including vaccines and vaccine-related products. The proposal has been hotly contested globally, but the Biden Administration said in May of this year that the United States would back it.

A Third Option: Limited IP Waiver Could Solve Our Pandemic Vaccine Problems

In the early days of the vaccination efforts, Americans were anxiously online trying to register for a COVID-19 vaccination appointment. Reports of success at 1:30 am and 2:30 am made the rounds as new appointments dropped onto websites. Also common were stories of vaccine elitism and discussions of which vaccine is “the best.”  News reports continue to show a steady uptick in the percentage of vaccinated Americans. Elsewhere in the world though, the story is very different, and a darker picture is emerging. In Africa, many countries have vaccinated less than 2% of their population. While vaccine distribution is difficult in many regions of the developing world, this is a hurdle that medical assistance groups, such as Doctors Without Borders, are accustomed to handling. The challenges are known. What is most difficult in combating COVID-19 is obtaining the vaccines in the first place. Some argue that IP rights are the key problem and should be waived, while others claim they are the only solution and that waiver would be catastrophic. This article suggests a third option, somewhere between voluntary vaccine donation and a full waiver of IP rights, that may offer a way forward.

Global IP Policy Should Shift to Promote Patent Sharing

President Biden recently announced his support for easing patent rules surrounding COVID-19 vaccines and other COVID-related intellectual property in the wake of growing crises in India and South Africa. Despite President Biden’s public support, easing the international patent rules requires a unanimous decision on the part of the World Trade Organization (WTO), which is still uncertain. However, with the United States’ announcement, the European Union (EU) will also reportedly consider the issue. Predictably, major pharmaceutical companies, including the three pharmaceutical manufacturers with vaccines approved for use in the United States — Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson —have lobbied against easing patent rules. But, given the uniquely global reach of the pandemic and the practical barriers to the production and distribution of vaccines on a global scale, it would be a mistake not to provide patent infringement waivers. What is the need? What is the legal issue? And will it make a difference?

Stop Tripping Over TRIPS

The petition by South Africa and India at the World Trade Organization (WTO) to waive most of the protections in the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement was all but dead. It failed in October, December, January, March, and May. Then, after the Biden Administration expressed in the most neutral terms is was “considering” and “discussing” the proposal, U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai yesterday announced U.S. support for text-based negotiations that “will take some time.” IP rights are not the barrier to rapid production of vaccines advocates think they are, the waiver would cause more harm than possible good. The WTO would do much better to discuss removing obstacles to the trade of COVID-19 related items than removing intellectual property rights. There are 191 trade restriction measures on COVID-19 related supplies.  

Mainstream Media Defends Patents? BBC Interview Indicates IP Talking Points on COVID Crisis May Be Reaching a Broader Audience

I happened to be listening to NPR yesterday morning, and caught an interview on BBC Newshour between the BBC’s Razia Iqbal and a representative of the African Union, Dr. Ayoade Olatunbosun-Alakija, who is also co-chair of the African Union COVID-19 Africa Vaccine Delivery Alliance. The discussion was somewhat unique in that the BBC host was at several points defending patent rights and pushing her guest to explain precisely how patents are the problem with respect to the undeniable crisis of insufficient vaccine access in the world’s poorest countries. An excerpted and slightly edited transcript of the interview follows

Tai Says United States Will Back India-South Africa Proposal to Waive IP Rights Under TRIPS

Bloomberg first reported today that U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai said that the United States will back a proposal by India and South Africa last year to waive intellectual property protections under the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement. The proposal calls for the suspension of international protections for patents, copyrights, industrial designs, trade secrets and proprietary materials, “in relation to the prevention, containment, or treatment of COVID-19 until widespread vaccination is in place globally and the majority of the world’s population has developed immunity.” Tai reportedly said “We are for the waiver at the WTO, we are for what the proponents of the waiver are trying to accomplish, which is better access, more manufacturing capability, more shots in arms.”

Indian Vaccine Economics: IP Rights are Not the Real Villain in India’s COVID-19 Emergency

The horrific second wave of COVID-19 in India has compelled the government to introduce an expedited vaccination drive from May 1, 2021, where all citizens above the age of 18 (and not just priority groups) will be eligible to register. The program also came with the promise of an introduction to several new vaccines in the market. A majority of the states also decided to roll out the vaccine for free. Unfortunately, reports that stock had run out followed shortly in several states. States like Maharashtra and Delhi had to keep the drive on hold. Bengaluru also faced supply problems ahead of the drive. A popular proposition is that patent restrictions and exclusivity of “know-how” are a barrier to adequate production of vaccines.

Calls for Compulsory Licensing and IP Waivers of COVID-19 Vaccines Ignore Technical Complexities

Though it is not over, it seems that the end of the Covid-19 pandemic may be in sight. A select group of countries has managed to bring vaccines to the market in record time. Take the United States, for example. At the time of this writing, three U.S. companies have managed to produce vaccines that received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The intellectual property that underlies these products quite literally has life-saving potential. This achievement no doubt represents a significant feat in human ingenuity, but it also presents a ripe issue in the intellectual property space — namely, compulsory licensing and intellectual property (IP) waivers. Some feel that the cost of sharing this information represents a bold degradation of the intellectual property system. In developing countries, however, the lack of vaccine availability is proving particularly difficult to manage.

Why Innovation Would Survive a COVID-19 TRIPS Waiver

Intellectual property protection has played an important role in this pandemic. As some have pointed out, without legal protection for innovative ideas, there may not have been such a rapid response to the pandemic – both in terms of testing/ treatment and, most recently, vaccines. Companies like Moderna, in conjunction with research and funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), have spent a decade developing key technology that enabled quicker vaccine development than ever before. Without some intellectual property protections in place that provide strong financial incentives to invest in new ideas, innovation like this may never have come to light. Nevertheless, India and South Africa initiated a proposal in October that is gaining traction among like-minded World Trade Organization (WTO) members. This proposal would temporarily suspend certain provisions of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS Agreement) for products related to COVID-19, including vaccines. What began with a handful of nations has now reached a majority, with 57 national sponsors of the proposal, and over 60 WTO members who are in support.

Gutting Patents Won’t Speed the COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout

India and South Africa recently urged the World Trade Organization to suspend intellectual property protections for COVID-19 vaccines and treatments. The claim is that this would allow developing countries to manufacture “cheap” COVID-19 therapeutics and vaccines, hastening the end to the pandemic—at least, that’s what proponents claim. They’re wrong. Dangerously wrong. Gutting IP protections won’t make COVID-19 medications more readily available but it will set a terrible precedent that will chill future medical innovation.

India and South Africa’s COVID Vaccine Proposal to the WTO: Why Patent Waiver Must Be Considered Over Compulsory Licensing

While coronavirus spent the majority of 2020 wreaking havoc on earth, pharmaceutical companies have been busy at work trying to invent a vaccine to combat it. Several companies, such as Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca, have competed neck and neck to be the first to deliver a cure to the world. Renowned pharmaceutical companies have been successful in developing the vaccine, which will be protected under the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights Agreement (TRIPS).

Calls for WTO to Suspend IP Rights for Vaccine Innovation Would Jeopardize Incredible Progress

The biggest vaccination effort in the history of medicine is underway to eradicate the global pandemic, with several strong prospects appearing poised for regulatory approval. As of December 2020, data from the World Health Organization showed over 50 vaccine candidates in clinical research, and 163 more in the preclinical stage. The wait could soon be over. Two separate vaccines – one from Pfizer and BioNTech and one from Moderna – are pending emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The former is already being administered for the first time outside of clinical trials following its approval by the UK government. That’s why recent calls to strip away intellectual property protections are so dangerous. Specifically, some nations have asked the World Trade Organization (WTO) to waive intellectual property protections related to COVID-19 – including not only vaccines, treatments, diagnostics, and medical technologies, but all forms of IP – until the majority of the world’s population has developed immunity. They argue that the current global intellectual property system is a barrier to accessing said COVID-19 vaccines, treatments, diagnostics, and medical technologies.

International Approaches to Accelerating Innovation and Access in the Pandemic

In the wake of COVID-19, government officials around the world face unprecedented decisions about when and to what extent they should reopen their respective societies before effective anti-viral medications or vaccines have been developed, necessary regulatory approvals obtained, and those solutions are manufactured for public use. Fundamentally, such decisions will require a delicate balance between protecting public health and facilitating economic growth, which, as we have all been reminded this year, are deeply intertwined.

Unitaid’s Contradictory Approach to IP Rights Risks Progress

Founded in 2006 by the governments of France, the United Kingdom and several others, and financed by a combination of a tax on airline tickets and government grants, Unitaid is one of the lesser known players in the crowded world of global health. Unitaid’s most distinctive contribution is its Medicines Patent Pool (MPP), now approaching its tenth year of operation. It is a “one-stop shop” for patented medicines owned by different companies and available for voluntary licensing in low- and middle-income countries, so generic versions can be manufactured cheaply. At the moment, it focuses on medicines for HIV, malaria, tuberculosis and Hepatitis C. Respecting existing intellectual property rights (IPRs) for new medicines is key to the success of the MPP, as it allows rights-holders of innovative medicines to widen access to their medicines in lower-income markets without compromising their markets in wealthier parts of the world from where they derive the majority of their profits. This in turn ensures the funds for the research and development that drives medical progress. Despite demonstrating how the market-based system of IPRs can be used to promote access to medicines, Unitaid has also started to pursue energetically what it describes as a “complementary” strategy of encouraging middle-income countries to undermine and attack IP rights.

Delhi High Court Ruling Clarifies Requirements for Export Under India’s Bolar Exemption

In 2002, India’s Patent Act 1970 [“the Act”] was amended to include Section 107A. This provision says that any act of making, using, selling or importing a patented invention solely for uses reasonably related to the development and submission of information required under any law in India, or in a country other than India, shall not be considered as infringement of patent rights.  This provision also outlines India’s Bolar exemption. As per the “Bolar doctrine,” which arose out of the U.S. case of Roche Products v. Bolar Pharmaceuticals (1984), it is permissible for third parties to carry out research and development on patented products (especially drugs) for the purposes of submitting information as required by regulatory authorities. The purpose of this provision is to ensure that third parties can conduct research and development and obtain prior regulatory approvals, enabling them to launch the patented products on the market as soon as the patent term expires. This ensures that patent holders do not get a de facto monopoly on their inventions after expiration of their patent term. Further, it ensures that the public has access to cheaper generic versions of the drugs immediately after expiration of the patent term. In India, the scope of this provision has been controversial for some time now, leading to a slew of litigation between major international pharmaceutical companies and Indian generic manufacturers claiming the Bolar exemption. In the recent combined decision in the matters of Bayer Corporation v. Union of India & Ors. LPA No. 359/2017 and Bayer Intellectual Property GMBH & Anr. v. Alembic Pharmaceuticals Ltd. RFA(OS)(COMM) 6/2017 (March 22, 2019), the Division Bench of the Delhi High Court laid these controversies to rest by deciding the question of whether export is permissible under this provision.