[Ip-health] IP Watch: Europe Told Of Obligations On Virus Benefit-Sharing

Sangeeta ssangeeta at myjaring.net
Wed Dec 15 06:39:09 PST 2010

Intellectual Property Watch
14 December 2010

Europe Told Of Obligations On Virus Benefit-Sharing
By Catherine Saez @ 4:15 pm
In what may be the first legal reference to newly adopted international
rules on sharing the benefits of and access to genetic resources,
nongovernmental groups have sent letters to top European health officials
reminding them of these obligations in the context of influenza viruses and
access to vaccines ­ a topic under debate this week at the World Health

The letters come in a week where WHO members are gathered in the second
round of an Open-Ended Working Group on Pandemic Influenza Preparedness:
Sharing of influenza viruses and access to vaccines and other benefits. It
is part of a renewed push to finalise outstanding areas of a WHO plan for
responding to global health crises resulting from the influenza virus.
Negotiations have been stalled for nearly two years by disagreements over a
legally-binding Standard Material Transfer Agreement (SMTA) and some
intellectual property issues within the plan (IPW, WHO, 6 December 2010).

According to the NGOs, the EU ³has been resisting calls by many developing
countries to negotiate a SMTA that includes concrete benefit-sharing
obligations for sharing of influenza viruses with the WHO Network
laboratories as well as with third party entities.²

Two letters were co-signed by the Third World Network and the Church
Development Service, and the third letter was co-signed with the Berne
Declaration. They refer to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity
protocol on access and benefit sharing (ABS), which was agreed in October in
Nagoya, Japan, and must be ratified by governments.

The letters say that the ³ABS protocol negotiations have established that
the scope of the Protocol and as such the Convention of Biological Diversity
extends to pathogens, including influenza viruses being shared under the
auspices of the World Health Organization.²

They were sent to European Health Commissioner John Dalli, German Federal
Health Minister Philipp Rösler ­ both dated 6 December ­ and the Head of
International Affairs Division at the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health,
Gaudenz Silberschmidt, dated 2 December.

Too little emphasis is brought to the fair and equitable benefit-sharing in
the WHO pandemic influenza preparedness, said the letters, which called for
the EU to ensure ³that influenza biological materials and/or products
developed using such materials are not appropriated through the use of
intellectual property rights.² The WHO negotiations are taking place in
Geneva from 13-17 December.

Click here [pdf], here[pdf] and here [pdf] to read the letters.

Kaitlin Mara contributed to this story.

The letters are available at

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