[Ip-health] IP-Watch: Health Advocates Press United States On WTO LDC IP Waiver

Thiru Balasubramaniam thiru at keionline.org
Fri Sep 18 05:22:31 PDT 2015


Health Advocates Press United States On WTO LDC IP Waiver


Several leading public health groups have sent a letter to United States
Trade Representative and US Patent and Trademark Office director asking for
more transparency on the US position on a request by least-developed
countries to indefinitely extend their World Trade Organization
intellectual property waiver on pharmaceutical products.

In an 11 September letter [pdf] to USTR Michael Froman and USPTO Director
Michelle Lee, the nongovernmental organisations asked the US to publicly
disclose its position on the LDC request to the WTO. The advocacy groups
are concerned that the United States is preparing to take an opposing
stance on the LDC request.

A decision is expected to be taken at the next WTO Council for
Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) – taking
place from 15-16 October – on the LDCs’ request to extend a current waiver
allowing them to avoid enforcing IP rights on pharmaceutical products (IPW,
WTO/TRIPS, 11 June 2015). This would only apply to the countries as long as
they are classified as LDCs.

The NGOs requested an “immediate full disclosure of US positions on the
requested extension and an opportunity to engage with your office on policy
positions that we think would be highly undesirable.”

Past USTR positions during negotiations on compulsory licences and earlier
LDC extensions suggest that the US “might pursue policy positions that
restrict the rights of LDCs under the TRIPS Agreement and hinder access to
affordable medicines for their populations,” the letter said.

The signatory groups include Health GAP, Knowledge Ecology International,
Public Citizen, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF, Doctors without Borders),
and Oxfam.

The US should not seek to prevent an indefinite extension, the groups said,
as “short extensions do not allow LDCs and donors of global health programs
… to secure durable sources of lower cost generic medicines nor a
sufficient time period to develop sustainable local pharmaceutical

The US should not “seek to tie the granting of an extension for
pharmaceuticals to a declaration, express or implied, that intellectual
property protections are necessarily beneficial for development of LDCs,”
they said. Nor should they “place any other conditions or restrictions on
LDCs including any that may restrict LDCs’ pharmaceutical capacity and
right to export medicine to other countries.”

Furthermore, the US should not attempt to “impose conditions that require
LDCs to maintain existing degrees of IP protection,” the letter said,
adding that the US “should join the emerging global consensus, supported
even by the European Commission.” The Commission announced its support for
the extension last week (IPW, EU Policy, 10 September 2015).

According to one of the co-authors, the USTR and USPTO had not responded as
of 16 September.

In the context of the extension request, KEI published a briefing note [
presenting a comparison of key indicators between LDC, non-LDC, and members
of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The
note includes data showing the vast difference in the standard of living of
people who live in LDCs, making the case for allowing them access to needed

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