Technology has become essential for education. Many countries around the world have started to incorporate technology in the educational environment, thereby changing the educational process in order to give 21st-century learners the new abilities they need. Moreover, for developing countries, the use of technology in education represents an opportunity to solve salient problems of their educational systems. Nonetheless, countries have left aside the fact that copyright law governs how that technology can be effectively used in education.
Letter from 56 Non-profit Organizations and Academic Experts to Secretary Kerry Regarding State Department Pressure Against Access to Medicines Efforts [PDF]
July 20, 2016
Dear Secretary Kerry: We are writing to express our concern about recent statements made by representatives of the State Department on issues regarding intellectual property (IP) and access to medicines in various settings, including proceedings in Colombia, several important United Nations fora, and in India.
[Médecins Sans Frontières, Link] New York/New Delhi, June 2, 2016—As Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi prepares to address US Congress next week, the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is urging India—often called the “pharmacy of the developing world“—to resist pressure from US lawmakers and the pharmaceutical industry and protect access to affordable medicines. Millions of people across the globe who rely on Indian low-cost quality generics are at risk of having their lifelines cut as pharmaceutical lobbying groups and US lawmakers aim to change India’s intellectual property (IP) policies to favor excessive pharmaceutical monopolies.
[House Ways and Means Committee Democrats, Link] A group of 15 House Democrats today sent a letter to U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Michael Froman urging the Administration to clarify its position on compulsory licensing for generic medicines in Colombia.
The letter was led by Ways and Means Committee Ranking Member Sander Levin (D-MI), and also signed by Reps. Jim McGovern (D-MA), Jim McDermott (D-WA), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), Peter Welch (D-VT), Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), John Lewis (D-GA), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), David E. Price (D-NC), Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY), and Sam Farr (D-CA).
[Joint Letter Signed by 122 Experts – PDF in English and Spanish, with Signatures] Dear President Santos: We are lawyers, academics and other experts specializing in fields including intellectual property, trade and health, writing to affirm that international law and policy support Colombia´s right to issue compulsory licenses on patents in order to promote public interests including access to affordable medicines.
Cross posted from Afro Leo, Link (CC-BY)
Afro-IP regularly reports on how Africa fares in the Special 301 Report issued annually by the USTR (see links to some previous posts below).
The 2016 Report was released at the end of April 2016. The generation of the report through a unilateral US process and its goal have been protested by several countries. For instance, as noted by Mike Palmedo in his post on the 2016 report, both India and Chile have registered their displeasure.
[J. Carlos Lara & Pablo Viollier, Derechos Digitales, Link (CC-BY-SA) ] Nos hemos acostumbrado a ver, una vez al año, las noticias informando que varios de nuestros países está en la llamada “lista negra de la piratería”. No es que nuestros mares estén llenos de asaltantes de embarcaciones, sino que existe un intenso manejo de prensa que acompaña a la publicación del Special Report 301 de la USTR, el órgano encargado de la política comercial exterior de Estados Unidos. El mismo que, entre otras cosas, negocia (léase: intenta imponer condiciones) a nombre de los Estados Unidos en tratados internacionales como TPP y TiSA.
Last week, the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) released the 2016 Special 301 Report. The report satisfies the longstanding legislative requirement that it identify “those foreign countries that deny adequate and effective protection of intellectual property rights (IPR), or deny fair and equitable market access to United States persons that rely upon intellectual property protection.” Countries are either identified as a Priority Foreign Country (which triggers a process that can lead to sanctions) or placed on the Priority Watch List or the Watch List.
The World Trade Organization prohibits Members from unilaterally sanctioning each other, so it has become rare for a country to be included as a Priority Foreign Country. However, this year a new law requires USTR to develop “action plans” with countries on the Priority Watch List and allows “appropriate actions” if the U.S. is unsatisfied with its trading partners’ progress on these plans.
Flexible Exceptions Work in Developing Countries
I was asked in the hearing to comment on the proposition that flexible exceptions like fair use are only appropriate for the U.S. or other countries with highly developed adjudication systems. As I noted in the hearing, this idea is based on some key fallacies.
The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) has announced a “work plan” with Honduras to strengthen IP enforcement there. According to a USTR press release, Honduras will “substantially increase the number of prosecutors specializing in criminal IPR enforcement by the end of this March. The GOH has also committed to publish quarterly reports on prosecution case activity, in order to promote transparency and accountability as this plan is implemented. Additionally, the Work Plan addresses signal piracy in cable and satellite transmissions. Prosecutors will work to efficiently resolve pending criminal investigations associated with this problem and GOH authorities will engage with rights holders to promote expanded use of administrative enforcement options. The GOH’s cable regulatory authorities have committed to accept right holder identification of authorized cable licensees, and to take appropriate administrative enforcement actions, including the imposition of fines and suspension of business licenses in appropriate cases. These regulatory authorities also committed to publish quarterly reports on administrative enforcement activity.” The work plan also addresses concerns over the scope of geographical indications.
The first part of this submission calls on USTR to adopt two interpretive principles in implementing the Special 301 statute. USTR should give proportional consideration to appropriate limitations and exceptions in evaluating foreign intellectual property systems, including by mentioning positive examples of limitations and exceptions in its “best practices” and “positive developments” identifications, and by listing countries on watch lists for egregious cases where a lack of limitations and exceptions stands as a barrier to US trade.
The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) has requested comments for the Special 301 Report, which identifies countries that “deny adequate and effective protection of intellectual property rights (IPR) or deny fair and equitable market access to U.S. persons who rely on intellectual property protection.” It will also hold a public hearing for further input. The report is produced via an interagency process led by USTR, during which the Special 301 Subcommittee of the Trade Policy Staff Committee reviews information from “many” sources, including submitted comments and public testimony, and recommends placement of countries in the report.