India and South Africa have asked the World Trade Organization (WTO) to waive certain conditions of the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement that could impede timely access to affordable medical products to combat Covid-19.
The countries on October 2 asked the TRIPS Council to recommend, “as early as possible”, a waiver from the implementation, application and enforcement of four sections of the second part of the agreement.
These Sections —1, 4, 5 and 7 — pertain to copyright and related rights, industrial designs, patents and the protection of undisclosed information.
“The waiver should continue until widespread vaccination is in place globally, and the majority of the world’s population has developed immunity hence we propose an initial duration of [x] years from the date of the adoption of the waiver,” stated the countries in their communication.
“As new diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines for Covid-19 are developed, there are significant concerns, how these will be made available promptly, in sufficient quantities and at affordable price to meet global demand. Critical shortages in medical products have also put at grave risk patients suffering from other communicable and non-communicable diseases,” they said.
“There are several reports about intellectual property rights hindering or potentially hindering timely provisioning of affordable medical products to the patients. It is also reported that some WTO members have carried out urgent legal amendments to their national patent laws to expedite the process of issuing compulsory/government use licenses,” they added.
According to the two countries, many countries, “especially” developing countries, may face institutional and legal difficulties when using flexibilities available in the TRIPS Agreement.