[Ip-health] TWN Info: Unconditional 17-year LDC exemption from pharmaceuticals patents agreed

Sangeeta Shashikant sangeeta at twnetwork.org
Tue Nov 3 05:33:12 PST 2015

Title : TWN Info: WTO - Unconditional 17-year exemption from
pharmaceuticals patents agreed
 Date : 03 November 2015

TWN Info Service on Trade, Intellectual Property Issues, Health
3 November 2015
Third World Network

Unconditional 17-year exemption from pharmaceuticals patents agreed

London, 3 Nov (Sangeeta Shashikant) ­ The United States and the Least
Developed Countries (LDCs) at the World Trade Organization have reached
agreement ad referendum on a pharmaceutical patent exemption for a
duration of 17 years, according to trade diplomats.

With this exemption, the world¹s poorest nations will not be obliged ³to
implement or apply² or ³to enforce² patents as well as test data
protection for pharmaceutical products until 1 January 2033.

This agreement was reached during a high level meeting on 29October
between US Ambassador Michael Punke and representatives of the LDC Group,
Ambassador Shameem Ahsan from Bangladesh and Ambassador Christopher
Onyanga Aparr from Uganda.

As part of the agreement, the LDC Group also secured waivers from
Œmailbox¹ and exclusive marketing right obligations, a trade diplomat
said, adding that there were no restrictive conditions attached to the
decision text.

With these waivers, LDCs will not be obliged to make available a mechanism
for filing patent applications for pharmaceutical products (mailbox) or to
grant exclusive marketing rights to such applications until 1 January
2033, although the waivers would have to be reviewed by the WTO General
Council annually.

Trade diplomats expect a decision text based on this agreement to be
formally adopted by the Council of the Trade-related Aspects of
Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) when it meets this Friday (6
November) at 10 am at the WTO.  The waivers from mailbox and exclusive
marketing rights will also have to be endorsed by the General Council.

Prerna Bomzan from LDC Watch based in Kathmandu, Nepal said, "It is
outrageous that the most vulnerable segment of the international community
had to struggle to defend their basic right to health. Such negotiations
make a mockery of Special and Differential Treatment for LDCs and of
justice, human rights and sustainable development which are purportedly
championed by the US.²

³The deal reached is a slight improvement over the previous transition
period which was for 14 years and without a mailbox waiver, but it is a
far cry from the LDC Group¹s original request to the TRIPS Council for a
pharmaceutical patent exemption linked to a country¹s graduation from LDC
status, and what is needed to deal with the public health problems in
LDCs,² said Chee Yoke Ling from Third World Network.

The LDCs¹ original request received widespread unconditional support from
developing countries, the European Union members, various UN and
international agencies (WHO, UNITAID, UNAIDS and UNDP), suppliers of
generic medicines to LDCs, civil society organizations from across the
world and even members of the US Congress and Senators including Senator
Bernie Sanders, a contender for the US presidential campaign.

However, none of this moved the US Administration, which continued to
stand largely alone in its opposition to the motivated requests of the
poorest nations. Instead the US offered a paltry 10-year duration, which
was firmly rejected by the LDC Group.

According to trade diplomats, following the 10-year offer, the LDC Group
hopefully countered with a 30-year duration, but even this was not
acceptable to the US.

³By insisting first on 10 years and then drawing the line at 17 years, the
US once again reveals itself as the bullyboy for Big Pharma, willing to do
any dirty work needed to champion its global hegemony over the elixirs of
life or death², said Professor Brook K. Baker from Health GAP (Global
Access Project) & Northeastern University School of Law, Program on Human
Rights and the Global Economy.

James Love from Knowledge Ecology International reacting to the deal said,
³The decision to extend the WTO waiver of drug patent rules for 17 years
is a better outcome than the 10-year waiver proposed by the US Trade
Representative Ambassador Michael Froman, but it is also a disappointment,
and falls short of what was asked and needed² adding that, ³The Obama
Administration¹s trade policy continues to favor drug companies over poor
people, and to prop a system that needs to be fixed and changed, and not

It is ³puzzling that the US felt it had to play hard-to-get with the 34
poorest countries of the world instead of joining the consensus to grant
the request,² said Ellen t¹ Hoen, an expert on intellectual property and
access to medicines.+

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