Held in Geneva, this three-day WTO Workshop on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health was 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.

Like earlier workshops held in Geneva since 2005, this capacity-building activity aimed 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.

Among other subjects, the workshop looked at 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”.

Similar regional workshops have also been held for African countries in Mauritius in June 2006, for the Asia Pacific region in Macao in July 2007 and for Latin American and Caribbean countries in 2008. In addition, the TRIPS public health flexibilities figure prominently in other WTO national and regional technical cooperation events.

The workshop featured presentations by WTO officials, providing an introduction to the key elements of the TRIPS Agreement and related WTO instruments, in particular the provisions of direct relevance to public health, the Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health, and the paragraph 6 system.

Representatives of other intergovernmental organizations such as the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), World Health Organization (WHO), and UN Development Program (UNDP), reported on their activities. The speaker from the African Organization for Intellectual Property (OAPI) added a regional perspective to the debate.

To complete the picture, a number of other speakers were invited to share their experiences and views. These included representatives of the research and development (R&D) and generic industries, Médecins sans Frontières (Doctors without Frontiers), and some WTO member governments with implementing legislation in place allowing for exports under the paragraph 6 system. Practical exercises enabled participants to apply the acquired knowledge to concrete cases.

The participants came from: Albania, Argentina, Armenia, Barbados, Brazil, Colombia, Cuba, Egypt, Ghana, India, Jordan, Kenya, Mauritius, Moldova, Mongolia, Morocco, Nepal, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Swaziland, Chinese Taipei, Trinidad and Tobago and Uganda.

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