India, S Africa, 60 others propose 3-year IPR waiver period to fight pandemic

The 62 co-sponsors of a proposal seeking patent waivers on Covid-19-related medical products including India, South Africa, Indonesia and Pakistan, have suggested a three-year waiver period with a provision to annually review the duration.

As per the revised proposal on Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement waiver submitted Friday in the World Trade Organization, the co-sponsors said the duration has to be practical for manufacturing to be feasible and viable.

“To add specificity to the decision text following concern that the original decision text was too broad”, they said the revised text addresses this concern by focusing on “health products and technologies”.

With the aim to progress to text-based discussions, taking into account the discussions and feedback received, they said the text has been revised to reflect the concern of continuous mutations and the emergence of new variants of Covid-19.

The revised proposal is likely to be taken up at an informal meeting of the TRIPS Council on May 31.

While the previous draft- floated by India and South Africa- focussed on the prevention, treatment or containment of Covid-19 which was termed broad, the revised proposal talks of health products and technologies including diagnostics, therapeutics, vaccines, medical devices, personal protective equipment, their materials or components, and their methods and means of manufacture for the prevention, treatment or containment of Covid-19.

The revised text retains the original clause of including vaccines, therapeutics, medical devices and other products in the ambit of the waiver. This assumes significance as the US has extended its support for a waiver only for vaccines.

“Hence the revised text addresses this concern by focusing the text on “health products and technologies” as the prevention, treatment or containment of Covid-19 involves a range of products and technologies and intellectual property issues may arise with respect to the products and technologies, their materials or components, as well as their methods and means of manufacture,” the co-sponsors said in the revised proposal.

However, they stressed that the proposed waiver is limited in scope to Covid-19 prevention, treatment and containment.

“The duration has to be practical for manufacturing to be feasible and viable,” they said.

Experts said that the three year waiver period should be non-negotiable and the co-sponsors should not let it get linked with other issues at the WTO. They also wanted that a longer duration waiver should not be linked with a reduction in its scope.

“The revised text gives clarity on the scope and timeframe but we should insist that the duration of the waiver can’t be lowered,” said Biswajit Dhar, a professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University.

Dhar said that the co-sponsors must reject the proposal of any country which supports a waiver for vaccines only and oppose any efforts to link it with other issues.


•62 WTO members propose 3-yr waiver from IPRs to fight pandemic

•India, S Africa, Kenya, Maldives, Venezuela suggest waiver’s annual review

•Revised proposal maybe taken up in WTO on May 31

•Waiver sought for health products & technologies

•New draft retains waiver for vax, diagnostics, PPE, therapeutics, med devices

•Raw materials, components, methods & means of manufacture also included

•Experts caution on reducing 3-yr period, narrowing scope to vax only
•IPR waiver standalone issue, not linked with other WTO issues, warn experts

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