[Ahmed Abdel-Latif, Dick Kawooya, and Chidi Oguamanam, Bridges Africa, Link] Summary: An African ministerial meeting, organised by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the Japan Patent Office (JPO), to be held in Senegal next November 3-5 should embrace a balanced and development-oriented approach to intellectual property. Such an approach ought to take into account the needs, priorities and socio-economic circumstances of African countries as well as the most recent empirical evidence on the dynamics of intellectual property and innovation on the continent.
In November of 2001, at the height of the global AIDS pandemic, every WTO member country in the world, including the United States, voted unanimously in the Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health that WTO Least Developed Countries members should be granted an unconditional extension of any obligation to grant or enforce patents, data protections, or exclusive marketing rights on pharmaceutical products. These countries desperately needed access to affordable generic medicines and freedom from the pillage of Big Pharma’s monopoly pricing. This sensible and humane transition policy was confirmed by votes of the WTO TRIPS Council and General Council in 2002.
Earlier this year, WTO Least Developed Country Members requested an unconditional extension of the expiring WTO TRIPS transition period that exempts them from having to implement pharmaceutical patents and other intellectual property protections that constrain their ability to make or procure low-cost generic medicines. Informed sources indicate that the U.S. is currently opposing the LDC draft extension. While the exact US government position has not yet been made public, it seems likely from past US positions that the US Trade Representative might be opposing several of the most important elements of LDC request that make the extension truly meaningful for access to medicines.
The White House Office of the Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator (IPEC) has issued a request for comments to inform the drafting of the next Joint Strategic Plan on Intellectual Property Enforcement. The notice “invites public input and participation in shaping the Federal Government’s intellectual property enforcement strategy for 2016–2019.” The Federal Register notice is here, and IP Czar Danny Marti’s post about it is here. Comments are due October 16, 2015.
[Electronic Information for Libraries, Link, (CC-BY)] Once again, the European Union (EU) has blocked progress at the World Intellectual Property Organization’s (WIPO) Standing Committee on Copyright & Related Rights (SCCR) that met in Geneva from 29 June-3 July 2015. And this time, the EU is more isolated.
The Committee is discussing copyright laws that would aid libraries and archives in fulfilling their missions in a global, digital environment. EIFL (Electronic Information for Libraries) and representatives of international library and archive organizations, observed the European Union refuse to engage in meaningful discussions that would enable an effective global information infrastructure for access to knowledge.
[Electronic Information for Libraries, Link (CC-BY)] EIFL is delighted that Mongolia is in line to become the ninth country to ratify the Marrakesh Treaty for persons who are blind, visually impaired or otherwise print disabled. On 9 July 2015, the State Great Hural (Parliament) of Mongolia voted by an 86% majority to support ratification.
“I am so proud that Mongolia supports the adoption of an international legal standard to ensure that blind people have the right to read, a basic human right that librarians know is so important for education, employment and personal development,” said Baljid Dashdeleg, EIFL Copyright Coordinator, Mongolian Libraries Consortium.
Forthcoming in H Ullrich, R Hilty, M Lamping, J Drexl, TRIPS plus 20 – From Trade Rules to Market Principles, Springer (2015) Max Planck Institute for Innovation & Competition Research Paper No. 15-05.
Abstract: In the 1980s, significant differences in the levels of intellectual property (IP) protection around the globe triggered unilateral responses of the US as the key demandeur for stronger IP rights. Aspects of this IP unilateralism in turn served as a trade barrier for the importation of goods from other countries into the US. Some of these US measures were successfully challenged as a breach of international trade rules under GATT.
The User Rights track of the Fourth Global Congress on Intellectual Property and the Public Interest, to take place in Delhi, India, December 15-17, 2016, seeks research contributions. The User Rights track will focus on how law and policy can play a key role in breaking down barriers to full participation in the digital economy through expansions of user rights — the rights of users to access, use and transform digital content to further social, economic, cultural and political purposes. User rights can be found in diverse fields of law, including in human rights (e.g. the right to freedom of expression and opinion, the right to participate in cultural heritage, the right to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress, the right to privacy, the right to health), in limitations and exceptions and enforcement policies in intellectual property laws, in net neutrality and other communication industry regulation, in consumer and competition protection, in privacy rights — including those related to the capturing of user data, in contracts and terms of service, and through other laws that protect the rights of users of the digital economy and the content shared through it.
Statement at the WTO TRIPS Council, June 2015 – Agenda Item: Request of Least Developed Country WTO Members with Respect to the Extension of the Transition Period for Pharmaceutical Products
Universal health coverage is the central policy objective in global public health and part of the future UN Sustainable Development Goals. Universal health coverage means that all people obtain the full spectrum of essential, quality health services they need without suffering financial hardship. This requires a strong, efficient, well-run health system that meets priority health needs through people-centred integrated care. Health systems must provide for a system for financing health services, a sufficient capacity of well-trained health workers and be able to ensure access to safe, effective and affordable essential medicines and technologies.
[Joint Letter from 70 civil society groups to the Members of the World Trade Organization, PDF] As civil society organizations concerned with ensuring prompt availability of affordable medicines in Least Developed Countries (LDCs) we call on WTO Members to unconditionally accord the LDC Group an extension of the transition period with respect to pharmaceutical products and waivers from obligations under Article 70.8 (mailbox obligation) and Article 70.9 (exclusive marketing rights) as requested in their duly motivated request to the TRIPs Council (IP/C/W/605).
The following is the introduction of South Centre Research Paper no. 61, Guidelines on Patentability and Access to Medicines, by Germán Velásquez. The full paper is available here.
Until recently, the link between the examination of patents carried out by national patent offices and the right of citizens to access to medicines was not at all clear. They were two functions or responsibilities of the State that apparently had nothing to do with each other. Examining the growing literature on intellectual property and access to medicines, it seems that the analysis of one actor has been left out: the patent offices. And the reason is clear: patent offices are administrative institutions. Patentability requirements are not defined by patent offices, but frequently by the courts, tribunals, legislation or treaty negotiators. There is now greater understanding that the examination of patents and the role played by patent examiners are key elements that could contribute to or obstruct access to medicines. Given the impact of pharmaceutical patents on access to medicines, patent offices should draw up public policies and strategies that respond to national health and medicine policies.
ARTICLE 19 has welcomed the annual report of Farida Shaheed, the Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, presented to the 28th Session of the Human Rights Council in March 2015. The Special Rapporteur’s final report subjects copyright laws and policies to a thorough human rights analysis, referencing “the Right to Share” Principles, developed by ARTICLE 19 and a group of international experts.
The report draws on Article 27 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and Article 15(1) of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), which protect both authorship and cultural participation, and questions the assumption that strong copyright enforcement is synonymous with advancing either of these interests.