At the meeting of the Council for Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) on 15-16 October 2020, WTO members discussed how best to use the global intellectual property (IP) system to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic. Members also discussed the extension of the transitional period for least developed countries (LDCs) to implement the TRIPS Agreement and a new proposal on the competitiveness of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) through the protection of IP rights.
Some 40 members engaged in a substantive discussion on a proposal submitted by India and South Africa for a temporary waiver of certain TRIPS obligations they said would facilitate an appropriate response to COVID-19. The proposal suggests a waiver for all WTO members on the implementation, application and enforcement of certain provisions of the TRIPS Agreement in relation to the “prevention, containment or treatment” of COVID-19. The proponents argued this would avoid barriers to the timely access to affordable medical products including vaccines and medicines or to scaling-up of research, development, manufacturing and supply of essential medical products.
The waiver would cover obligations in four sections of Part II of the TRIPS Agreement – Section 1 on copyright and related rights, Section 4 on industrial designs, Section 5 on patents and Section 7 on the protection of undisclosed information. It would last for a specific number of years, as agreed by the General Council, and until widespread vaccination is in place globally and the majority of the world’s population is immune. Members would review the waiver annually until its termination.
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