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    WTO IP Committee Addresses Medicines Access, Plain-Packaged Tobacco, ACTA

    Published on 23 October 2011 @ 6:40 pm

    By , Intellectual Property Watch

    The World Trade Organization committee responsible for intellectual property rights issues is meeting this week and will address several items of potential debate, including a nearly unused 2003 provision for compulsory-licensed medicines exports to poor countries, a WTO member’s attempt to discourage smoking through unlabelled tobacco packaging, and IP enforcement raised by a small but potent group of WTO members who negotiated the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA).

    Also on the agenda of the 24-25 October meeting of the Council on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) is the annual review of China’s 2001 accession to the WTO, which takes place at this time of year. Other WTO members usually have a few observations or questions for China on IP-related issues.

    The TRIPS Council typically meets three times annually, with the October meeting usually the most substantive as it includes annual reviews.

    The last TRIPS Council meeting on 7 June was brief (perhaps reflecting the recognition that the Doha Round of negotiations had just collapsed again), but there was a flare-up around Australian legislation aimed at curbing tobacco use (IPW, WTO/TRIPS, 16 June 2011). The draft legislation would have outlawed use of brands and trademarks on tobacco packaging. Concern was raised at the June meeting by the tobacco producing Dominican Republic and was put on this week’s agenda by Ukraine. Tobacco industry lobbyists became heavily involved in Geneva.

    On enforcement, ACTA was raised a year ago by developing countries concerned about its impact on WTO activities, though they argue that compliance with enforcement issues are a matter for the WTO Dispute Settlement Body, not TRIPS. This year, it appears to be on the agenda from the (mostly developed) countries that negotiated the treaty, some of whom held a signing ceremony on 1 October (IPW, Bilateral/Regional Negotiations, 4 October 2011). The countries requesting the agenda item are: Australia, Canada, European Union, Korea, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, Switzerland and the United States. As the TRIPS Council gathers, many of these countries have been in Peru concluding the latest round of intensive trade negotiations for a Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement.

    The review of the public health waiver is slated for the second morning of the two-day TRIPS Council. The August 2003 waiver to TRIPS, approved as a permanent amendment to TRIPS in December 2005, is under review. Under paragraph 6 of the 2001 Doha Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health, it was agreed that members would solve an overlooked problem in the TRIPS Agreement. The problem was that compulsory licences – for production of cheaper generic versions of pharmaceuticals without the patent holder’s permission – were allowed under TRIPS only for predominately the domestic market of the generic producer. But many smaller WTO members lack the manufacturing capacity to do this. So a waiver was agreed allowing other countries to produce the cheaper drugs under compulsory licence for export to those countries lacking manufacturing capacity. But it has only been used once, by Canada and Rwanda. There is disagreement over whether this represents a failure of the provision. The waiver was subject of a review at the October 2010 TRIPS Council meeting (IPW, WTO/TRIPS, 29 October 2010).

    Additional agenda items include ongoing issues related to geographical indications (GIs – product names with special characteristics derived from places), biological diversity, and technical cooperation and technology transfer.

    On GIs, the mandate to establish a register for GIs on wines and spirits (which receive a higher level of protection than other products) was intensively discussed in the spring when the Doha Round was still going strong (IPW, 21 April 2011, WTO/TRIPS). This week, there will be a review under TRIPS Article 24.2 of the provision for higher level protection for wines and spirits.

    On the CBD, there is an outstanding proposal to amend TRIPS to require the disclosure of origin of genetic resources in patent applications, as an attempt to curb perceived biopiracy in developing countries. The CBD proposal and a proposal to extend high level GI protection to other products beyond wines and spirits are handled in special consultations under WTO Director General Pascal Lamy. The issue of patentability of life forms has been contentious in recent past TRIPS Council meetings (IPW, WTO/TRIPS, 2 March 2011).

    Development issues also are on the agenda, reflecting the fact that the WTO membership is mostly developing countries with little intellectual property. There is the annual review of TRIPS Article 66.2, under which developed countries are supposed to provide incentives for the transfer of their technologies to developing countries. There also is a discussion of technical cooperation and capacity-building for least-developed countries which is related to an extension of the deadline for them to implement the TRIPS agreement, and a reference in the agenda to objectives and principles that ensure fairness for developing countries and a development dimension in the TRIPS Council’s work.

    A final item that has been sensitive in the past is a moratorium on the use of a non-violation clause sought by developed countries. The clause could be used if a member deems that another member’s actions caused an unexpected loss of benefits, even if there is no violation of a WTO agreement. Developing countries are wary of this provision and the moratorium on its use may be up for renewal at the December 2011 WTO ministerial.

    William New may be reached at wnew@ip-watch.ch.

     

    Comments

    1. WTO Hears Health, Economic Considerations Of Plain Packaging For Tobacco | Intellectual Property Watch says:

      [...] at the October 2011 TRIPS Council meeting when Australia introduced a plain packaging legislation (IPW, WTO/TRIPS 23 October 2011). The issue has brought about three formal WTO dispute against Australia’s measure from [...]


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    We welcome your participation in article and blog comment threads, and other discussion forums, where we encourage you to analyse and react to the content available on the Intellectual Property Watch website. By participating in discussions or reader forums, or by submitting opinion pieces or comments to articles, blogs, reviews or multimedia features, you are consenting to these rules.

    We welcome your participation in article and blog comment threads, and other discussion forums, where we encourage you to analyse and react to the content available on the Intellectual Property Watch website.

    By participating in discussions or reader forums, or by submitting opinion pieces or comments to articles, blogs, reviews or multimedia features, you are consenting to these rules.

    1. You agree that you are fully responsible for the content that you post. You will not knowingly post content that violates the copyright, trademark, patent or other intellectual property right of any third party or which you know is under a confidentiality obligation preventing its publication and that you will request removal of the same should you discover that you have violated this provision. Likewise, you may not post content that is libelous, defamatory, obscene, abusive, that violates a third party's right to privacy, that otherwise violates any applicable local, state, national or international law, that amounts to spamming or that is otherwise inappropriate. You may not post content that degrades others on the basis of gender, race, class, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual preference, disability or other classification. Epithets and other language intended to intimidate or to incite violence are also prohibited. Furthermore, you may not impersonate others.

    2. You understand and agree that Intellectual Property Watch is not responsible for any content posted by you or third parties. You further understand that IP Watch does not monitor the content posted. Nevertheless, IP Watch may monitor the any user-generated content as it chooses and reserves the right to remove, edit or otherwise alter content that it deems inappropriate for any reason whatever without consent nor notice. We further reserve the right, in our sole discretion, to remove a user's privilege to post content on our site. IP Watch is not in any manner endorsing the content of the discussion forums and cannot and will not vouch for its reliability or otherwise accept liability for it.

    3. By submitting any contribution to IP Watch, you warrant that your contribution is your own original work and that you have the right to make it available to IP Watch for all purposes and you agree to indemnify IP Watch, its directors, employees and agents against all damages, legal fees and others expenses that may be incurred by IP Watch as a result of your breach of warranty or of these terms.

    4. You further agree not to publish any personal information about yourself or anyone else (for example telephone number or home address). If you add a comment to a blog, be aware that your email address will be apparent.

    5. IP Watch will not be liable for any loss including but not limited to the following (whether such losses are foreseen, known or otherwise): loss of data, loss of revenue or anticipated profit, loss of business, loss of opportunity, loss of goodwill or injury to reputation, losses suffered by third parties, any indirect, consequential or exemplary damages.

    6. You understand and agree that the discussion forums are to be used only for non-commercial purposes. You may not solicit funds, promote commercial entities or otherwise engage in commercial activity in our discussion forums.

    7. You acknowledge and agree that you use and/or rely on any information obtained through the discussion forums at your own risk.

    8. For any content that you post, you hereby grant to IP Watch the royalty-free, irrevocable, perpetual, exclusive and fully sub-licensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display such content in whole or in part, world-wide and to incorporate it in other works, in any form, media or technology now known or later developed.

    9. These terms and your posts and contributions shall be governed and interpreted in accordance with the laws of Switzerland (without giving effect to conflict of laws principles thereof) and any dispute exclusively settled by the Courts of the Canton of Geneva.

     

     
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