The TRIPS Council of the World Trade Organization will discuss a revised proposal submitted by 62 co-sponsors, including India, South Africa, and Indonesia, seeking patent waivers to manufacture COVID-19-related medical products, an official said. As per the new proposal, they have asked for a 3-year waiver on Intellectual Property Rights for Covid-19 medical products at the World Trade Organization. A fresh proposal submitted by these countries also has a provision to review the duration annually. The fresh proposal focuses on health products and technologies and sets the stage for discussions on specifics. Council for Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) is likely to take up the new proposal at an informal meeting on 31st of this month.
In October 2020, India and South Africa had submitted the first proposal suggesting a waiver for all World Trade Organization (WTO) members on the implementation of certain provisions of the TRIPS Agreement in relation to the prevention, containment or treatment of COVID-19.
The agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights or TRIPS came into effect in January 1995. It is a multilateral agreement on intellectual property (IP) rights such as copyright, industrial designs, patents and protection of undisclosed information or trade secrets. According to the revised proposal, the waiver should be in force for at least three years from the date of the decision on the matter. The co-sponsors have stated that the duration has to be practical for manufacturing to be feasible and viable.
“The revised proposal will now be discussed in the TRIPS Council,” the official added.
The revised text has proposed waiver for health products and technologies as the prevention, treatment or containment of COVID-19 which involves a range of things and “intellectual property issues may arise with respect to the products and technologies, their materials or components, as well as their methods and means of manufacture.”
The co-sponsors have stressed that the proposed waiver is limited in scope to COVID-19 prevention, treatment and containment.
“The international community is dealing with a novel pathogen, with many uncertainties.
“For instance, investigation is still underway for effective therapeutics, and there are still many unknowns with respect to vaccines which will have a bearing on the scale manufacturing and supply that will be needed to control the pandemic such as the duration of immunity conferred, effectiveness of vaccines against new variants, and the effect of vaccines on children,” the submission has said.
The submission was made by these countries to the WTO on Friday.
The communication was circulated at the request of the delegations of the African Group, the Plurinational State of Bolivia, Egypt, Eswatini, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Kenya, the LDC (least developed countries) Group, Maldives, Mozambique, Mongolia, Namibia, Pakistan, South Africa, Vanuatu, the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and Zimbabwe.
Commenting on the revised proposal, Biswajit Dhar, professor of economics at Jawaharlal Nehru University, said the three-year period is important as interested companies look for certainty before taking a decision to make investments.
“Final decision on this will put a moral pressure on WTO member countries to share methods and means of manufacture of products and vaccines to fight against COVID-19,” Dhar said.