Geneva, this four-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”.
TRIPS public health flexibilities figure prominently in other WTO national and regional technical cooperation events. 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.
The scene for the workshop was set by an introductory session on the interface between intellectual property rights and public health, which was jointly given by the WTO, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). Subsequent presentations by WTO officials provided 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. To complete the picture, representatives from some WTO member governments discussed TRIPS flexibilities and reported on the implementing legislation in place allowing for exports and imports under the paragraph 6 system. Practical exercises enabled participants to apply the acquired knowledge to concrete cases.
With a view to putting the issue of TRIPS and public health in the context of a wider action to address problems related to public health, a number of other speakers shared their experiences and views regarding certain key issues of direct relevance to public health. Among the issues covered were, in particular, the management of intellectual property rights as applied to concrete health-related projects, questions related to the regulatory approval, quality control and effectiveness of medicines, as well as to competition and procurement. The list of invited speakers included representatives of the research and development (R&D) and generic industries, Médecins sans Frontières (Doctors without Frontiers), the Global Fund, the Medicines for Malaria Venture and the African Network for Drugs and Diagnostics Innovation.
The participants came from: Armenia, Cambodia, Cuba, Grenada, Hong Kong China, Indonesia, Iraq, Jordan, Korea, Laos, Lebanon, Mexico, Moldova, Nigeria, Oman, Peru, Philippines, Russia, Samoa, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Chinese Taipei and Ukraine.