Posted by: mulrickillion | November 10, 2011

WTO | 2011 News items – Intellectual property council talks health, tobacco packaging and enforcement

WTO: 2011 NEWS ITEMS

24 and 25 October 2011

INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY: FORMAL MEETING

Intellectual property council talks health, tobacco packaging and enforcement

WTO members assessed the system for helping poorer countries import cheaper medicines, debated whether an Australian bill on plain packaging for cigarettes will hurt poor farmers, and scrutinized a new agreement among a group of countries on stronger intellectual property enforcement, when they met as the TRIPS Council on 24-25 October 2011.

On the “Paragraph 6 system”, which helps countries import cheaper generic medicines, they also agreed that the deadline should be extended for another two years for countries to accept an amendment to the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement, as the number of countries doing so gradually rises. The WTO General Council is expected to approve the decision when it meets in December.

But they delayed a decision on a long-standing, controversial and  legally complex question, which could be taken up at the 15–17 December 2011 Ministerial Conference in Geneva. This about the possibility of countries challenging each other in the WTO dispute settlement procedure on intellectual property issues even if the TRIPS agreement has not been violated, and only an expected right has been thwarted: “non-violation” cases in TRIPS.

The possibility of filing non-violation cases in intellectual property was ruled out temporarily in the TRIPS Agreement. This “moratorium” on cases of this kind has so far been extended from one ministerial conference to the next. Switzerland and the US continue to oppose extending the moratorium but they are willing to continue consulting. Most members oppose non-violation cases and want the moratorium extended or the possibility scrapped completely.

The council reviewed China’s implementation of its intellectual property obligations for the last time under Beijing’s 2001 membership agreement, with some praise for the efforts the country has made in protecting intellectual property but also concerns about the amount of counterfeiting and piracy.

The two-day meeting also spent some time on a trio of issues related to biodiversity, biopiracy and patenting life forms (see www.wto.org/tripsbio), with the discussion largely following that of previous meetings.

And it examined various aspects of technical assistance, and developed countries’ incentives for their companies and institutions to transfer technology to least developed countries.

SOME DETAILS

First, a decision:

TRIPS and public health: the Par.6 system and the annual review

Full explanations: www.wto.org/tripshealth
See also: the 2010 review, and follow-up

Background. This was the annual review of how the “Par.6 system” is working. The system removes an intellectual property obstacle that would have prevented countries from using compulsory licences to manufacture generic medicines exclusively for export to countries unable to make them themselves. It refers to paragraph 6 of the 2001 Doha Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health.

The General Council first agreed to remove the obstacle through a 2003 “waiver”, a legal means allowing WTO members not to comply with an obligation or provision in a WTO agreement. Two years later it agreed to an almost identical amendment to the TRIPS Agreement, which is still pending. . . .

WTO | 2011 News items – Intellectual property council talks health, tobacco packaging and enforcement

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