[Ip-health] "U.S. Intensifies Anti-Counterfeit Drive in East Africa [Cut medicine supplies but protect rights...]

Riaz Tayob riaz.tayob at gmail.com
Thu Jul 22 01:45:25 PDT 2010


"U.S. Intensifies Anti-Counterfeit Drive in East Africa
By Wambi Michael

KAMPALA, Jul 19, 2010 (IPS) - The U.S.'s recent promotion of intellectual
property (IP) rights in Uganda is an indirect way of introducing the
Anti-Counterfeits Trade Agreement (ACTA) debate in East Africa.

This is the opinion of Nathan Irumba, Uganda's former ambassador to the
World Trade Organisation, in an interview with IPS.

His comments come in the midst of an anti-counterfeit campaign in East
Africa, which has led to bills being drafted that may threaten the
importation and manufacturing of legitimate generic medicines.

The U.S. is among the countries negotiating ACTA, which seeks to establish a
new international regime on IP rights enforcement. Health rights advocates
fear that ACTA could create a new set of barriers to the export of generic
medicines to poor countries.

Irumba said the enforcement of IP rights in East Africa "could affect the
flow of generic medicines by allowing any brand name manufacturer the
flexibility to claim that its IP right has been violated with the
importation of a generic medicine.

"You will have a situation where a drug is seized at the border by customs
officials just because the brand name drug manufacturer has complained,"
argued Irumba, who serves as an advisor to the nongovernmental Southern and
Eastern Africa Trade Information and Negotiations Institute (SEATINI).

His analysis partly springs from the several recent instances of EU customs
officials' seizures of legitimate generic drugs en route between developing
states.

Edgar Tabaro, a Ugandan lawyer, agreed with Irumba, telling IPS that the
proposed customs provisions of the East African Community (EAC) anti-
counterfeit policy and law are problematic, as they would allow "customs
authorities to use own initiative in seizing goods suspected of infringing
an IP right".

These comments come partly in response to a three-day regional workshop
entitled "Regional IP Protection: An East African Coordination" hosted by,
among others, the U.S. department of commerce and the U.S. patent and
trademark office with funding from the U.S. Agency for International
Development (USAID).

About 100 IP enforcement officials attended the workshop which was held
between Jun 9-11 in Uganda's capital of Kampala. The countries represented
included Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, Zambia, DRC and Malawi.

The workshop suggested IP standards for individual countries and made
proposals for the regional EAC anti-counterfeit policy and law currently
under consideration.

The U.S. ambassador to Uganda, Jerry Lanier, told attendees "it would be a
wonderful achievement if the (EAC) could take the lead in developing
regional standards and enforcement procedures that will act as a model for
other countries".

He added that, worldwide, there is increasingly recognition that effective
IP rights protection is vital for public safety.

"Counterfeit goods, including pharmaceuticals, are often substandard and
have caused death. Combating (such products), the need for national and
regional IP regimes is manifest," Lanier concluded.

In 2009 USAID created a 35 million dollar fund to fight counterfeit
medicines proliferation in public health supplies.

Nnamdi Kalu Ezera, a senior attorney with the U.S. department of commerce,
in an interview with IPS confirmed that, "the U.S. department of commerce
has an agreement with USAID to assist governments in East Africa and other
selected African countries to strengthen their IP regimes."

"In East Africa, (the department) is working through Kenya and Uganda to
increase the consistency, efficiency and effectiveness of IP protection in
the region and to enable the progressive and sustained elimination of
pirated goods from the regional market."

Ezera told IPS that, "it is not the intention of the U.S. government to
impose any particular standard on East Africa. The idea that we have is a
mutually beneficial one. It is not a question of protecting the interest of
foreign pharmaceuticals but of protecting the interests of Africa's
money-making industries," he said.

But Ugandan generic medicines manufacturer Quality Chemical Industries Ltd's
marketing manager Geoffrey Nalima told IPS that he questions the motives of
the U.S. government.

In his opinion, Washington is exploiting fears about fake goods for the
benefit of its dominant brand name pharmaceuticals. "Our concern is that
this will affect the production and importation of generics and, hence, the
affordability of medicines."

Nalima added that IP rights should be balanced with public health concerns,
"otherwise it will be hard for people to access essential medicines in a
region like ours".

In a May 4, 2009 statement, Chris Singer, head of the international section
of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), said
"PhRMA and its members place a high priority on addressing the harm caused
by inadequate IP protection and by the market access barriers put in place
by some U.S. trading partners.

"We appreciate efforts underway at all levels by the U.S. trade
representative, the departments of state and commerce, and the effective
advocacy of U.S. overseas missions to promote compliance with international
obligations." PhRMA represents the U.S.'s leading pharmaceutical research
and biotechnology companies.

In April 2010, Robert Hormats, under-secretary of state for economic, energy
and agricultural affairs, said, "the department (is) stepping up our IP
protection efforts. So are other federal agencies. The Obama administration
is marshalling millions of dollars annually to organise government-to-
government training programmes for judges, prosecutors and customs and
border officials in key countries of concern.

"We are actively collaborating with foreign governments to enforce (IP)
rights around the world," Hormats added.

IPS has ascertained that U.S.-funded efforts to draft IP laws in Uganda
first occurred in 2001. The Private Sector Foundation (PSF), formerly
chaired by William Kalema, in 2001 received 15,000 dollars from USAID to
facilitate workshops for the so-called TRIPS taskforce in Uganda. The
foundation, representing business, was started with money from USAID.

Kalema is now a board member of the Investment Climate Facility, a regional
business initiative active in the anti-counterfeit campaign.

The taskforce comprised the Uganda Law Reform Commission, Uganda Law
Society, the judiciary (commercial court), Uganda Investment Authority, the
ministries of justice, tourism, trade and Industry and the Uganda National
Council for Science and Technology.

The taskforce was the main forum through which public policy on IP was being
developed and formulated in Uganda. The money was used to facilitate
workshops and prepare IP-related bills. (END)"

http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=52228

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