TWN Info Service on Health Issues (Nov09/01)
Council takes up public health, TRIPS/CBD, drug seizure issues
Geneva, 2 Nov (Kanaga Raja) -- WTO Members, at meetings of the regular TRIPS Council on 27-28 October, amongst others, agreed to recommend extending by another two years an end-of-year deadline for Members to accept an amendment to the TRIPS Agreement in relation to TRIPS and public health.
Council also heard concerns from
According to trade officials, on 27 October, WTO Members agreed to extend for another two years the 31 December 2009 deadline for Members to accept an amendment to the TRIPS Agreement concerning the issue of patents and public health.
The recommendation to extend the deadline for accepting the amendment to the TRIPS Agreement until the end of 2011 will now have to be formally agreed by the General Council.
to trade officials, since the last TRIPS Council meeting in June, five
more members have reported that they have accepted the amendment:
A number of delegations urged all Members to accept the amendment.
According to trade officials, while some Members said that the Canada-Rwanda example shows that the system can work, some other Members said that the fact that the system has only been used once shows that it might be inadequate.
was agreed at the meeting that Chairperson Ambassador Karen Tan of
the agenda item of "Other Business",
In a statement at the TRIPS Council, India, referring to 17 seizures by the Dutch authorities in the year 2008 on the basis of EU regulation 1383/2003, said that it thought that the Amsterdam seizures were the last because the EC had been giving assurances that they are putting in place systems to ensure that generic medicines are not seized.
India however said that in May, a consignment of a generic antibiotic, Amoxicillin, manufactured in India and destined for a Least Developed Country, the Republic of Vanuatu in the Pacific, was seized by customs officials while in transit through Frankfurt, Germany. The seizures were made on grounds of alleged trademark violation although GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) had confirmed to the German authorities that GSK is the former patent holder for "Amoxil", a brand name for amoxicillin, it added.
to an "Explanatory Note" dated July 31 issued by the EC to
Member States on the application of the EC Regulation 1383/2003,
to 2003, said
the EC claims that there have been no drug seizures since December 2008,
noting that the EC has attributed the seizures in part to its operation
the drug seizures is also a deliberate mixing up of the issue of spurious/sub-standard
drugs etc with IPRs.
"We also witness an orchestrated campaign for TRIPS plus enforcement norms by deliberately confusing quality issues with IPRs in international organisations (WHO), other TRIPS plus initiatives in WIPO, WCO and UPU, insistence on TRIPS plus elements in FTAs being negotiated and to top it all, negotiating the ACTA amid secrecy and exclusion of a vast majority of countries including developing countries and LDCs," said India.
India further said that the widespread and repeated seizures, under the EC Regulation 1383, have an adverse systemic impact on (i) the principle of universal access to medicines, (ii) national public health budgets, (iii) legitimate trade of generic medicines, (iv) South-South commerce, (v) use of TRIPS flexibilities, and also (vi) seriously impair the efforts of civil society organisations engaged in providing medicines and improving public health in the least developed parts of the world.
It called upon the EC to urgently review the Regulation and bring it in conformity with WTO provisions including GATT, TRIPS Agreement and the letter and spirit of the Doha Ministerial Declaration on Public Health.
to trade officials, countries that supported
According to trade officials, the EU said that its commitment to access to medicines was well illustrated and that this policy had not changed. While not hindering trade in generic medicines, it was important to stop dangerous fake medicines and for that purpose detention by customs to allow verification of the product by the right holder was legitimate and necessary, said the EU.
discussion concerned a few cases of temporary detention of medicines,
and all the consignments had ultimately been returned to their importers,
the EU said. It further said that it had reacted effectively to
EU said that the regular review of Regulation 1383/2003 was open and
could address any concerns that
There were divisions in the TRIPS Council on two issues.
One concerns the issue of non-violation complaints. The key question relates to whether the present moratorium on non-violation cases in TRIPS - not to bring a formal dispute on this kind of complaint - should be extended beyond the upcoming seventh WTO Ministerial Conference end November.
to trade officials, consultations will continue on this issue. The
There were also divisions on the issue of whether to amend the TRIPS Agreement to require patent applicants to disclose the origin of genetic material and associated traditional knowledge.
According to trade officials, while Members continued to agree that the objective is to reduce bio-piracy, there was continued disagreement on whether amending the TRIPS Agreement is the way to deal with the issue.
Some Members continued to link these issues (the relationship between the TRIPS and UN Convention on Biological Diversity, TRIPS disclosure etc) with two proposals on geographical indications (multilateral register for GIs for wines and spirits and extending the higher level of protection beyond wines and spirits).
For these Members, the disclosure proposal is essential to prevent bio-piracy and patents being granted when the genetic material and traditional knowledge used are not new.
to trade officials, many Members also argued in favour of proposal TN/C/W/52
(which links the disclosure proposal to the two GI issues). According
to trade officials, speakers included India, Colombia, African Group
Other Members continued to oppose the link, arguing that it complicates the discussion. The opponents of the "disclosure" issue also reiterated their view that this is an unsuitable way to deal with bio-piracy and inappropriate patenting.
TRIPS Council also took up the eighth transitional review of
Meanwhile, on 28 October, the TRIPS Council met in Special Session, where the negotiations are focused on a multilateral register for GIs for wines and spirits. According to trade officials, positions remained largely unchanged.
Chair of the Special Session, Ambassador Trevor Clarke of