Workshop helps officials use health patent flexibilities

Twenty-eight developing-country officials are taking part in a 27–29 November 2006 workshop designed to help their countries make use of the pharmaceutical patents flexibilities in the WTO intellectual property agreement.

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Held in Geneva, this three-day WTO Workshop on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health is part of the WTO technical cooperation and capacity-building activities — “TRIPS” is “trade-related intellectual property rights”, the name used for the WTO’s intellectual property agreement.

The workshop aims to ensure that the participants have the information necessary so that their countries can make use of the TRIPS Agreement’s flexibilities for public health purposes.

A particular focus is the additional flexibility agreed by members in August 2003 and December 2005 to allow generic versions of patented medicines to be made under compulsory licence for export to countries that cannot manufacture the medicines themselves, sometimes called the “paragraph 6 system”.

This is the second workshop in Geneva on this subject. A third dedicated regional workshop for African countries on the same subject was held in Mauritius earlier in the year. In addition, the TRIPS public health flexibilities figure prominently in other WTO national and regional technical cooperation events on the agreement.

The workshop features presentations by WTO officials, representatives of other intergovernmental organizations such as the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), World Health Organization (WHO), Organisation Africaine de la Propriété Intellectuelle (OAPI), Global Fund, UNAIDS/UN Development Program (UNDP) and the World Bank, representatives of non-governmental organizations such as the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers (IFPMA), International Generic Pharmaceutical Alliance (IGPA), Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and the International Council for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD) and representatives of some WTO member governments. Participants are also undertaking practical exercises.

The participants come from: Barbados, Brazil, Chile, China, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Malaysia, Mali, Morocco, Nicaragua, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Suriname, Chinese Taipei, Thailand, Turkey, Uganda, Viet Nam, Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM), Organization of the Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) and the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS).

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