India, South Africa call for waiver of IP, patents under certain TRIPS provisions for COVID-19 therapeutics
There are several reports about intellectual property rights hindering or potentially hindering timely provisioning of affordable medical products to the patients, states a joint statement by these countries
On October 2, 2020, India and South Africa jointly made their submission publicly to the WTO, seeking a time-bound waiver of intellectual property, patent, copyright and protection under the certain provisions of the TRIPS Agreement for the prevention, containment and treatment of COVID-19. The next session of the TRIPS Council will take place between October 15-16, 2020.
Expressing the concerns related to COVID- 19 pandemic, both the countries through the submission have highlighted that the COVID-19 pandemic is now widespread, affecting most WTO members. As on October 1, 2020, there were about 333,722,075 confirmed cases globally with 1,009,270 confirmed deaths. To date, there is no vaccine or medicine to effectively prevent or treat COVID-19. All WTO members are struggling to contain the spread of the pandemic and provide healthcare services to those affected. Many developed, developing and least developed countries have declared a national emergency with the aim to curb the growing outbreak, and as advised by the WHO implemented social distancing measures with significant consequences for society and the economy. Notably, developing countries and least developed countries are especially disproportionately impacted. An effective response to COVID-19 pandemic requires rapid access to affordable medical products including diagnostic kits, medical masks, other personal protective equipment and ventilators, as well as vaccines and medicines for the prevention and treatment of patients in dire need.
Therefore, the submission mentioned that given this present context of global emergency, it is important for WTO members to work together to ensure that intellectual property rights such as patents, industrial designs, copyright and protection of undisclosed information do not create barriers to the timely access to affordable medical products including vaccines and medicines or to scaling-up of research, development, manufacturing and supply of medical products essential to combat COVID-19.
“The outbreak has led to a swift increase in global demand with many countries facing acute shortages, constraining the ability to effectively respond to the outbreak. Shortages of these products have put the lives of health and other essential workers at risk and led to many avoidable deaths. It is also threatening to prolong the COVID-19 pandemic. The longer the current global crisis persists, the greater the socio-economic fallout, making it imperative and urgent to collaborate internationally to rapidly contain the outbreak. And an effective response to COVID-19 pandemic requires rapid access to affordable medical products including diagnostic kits, medical masks, other personal protective equipment and ventilators, as well as vaccines and medicines for the prevention and treatment of patients in dire need,” according to the joint statement.
According to the joint representation, the waiver should continue until widespread vaccination is in place globally, since the majority of the world’s population has developed