THE Senate on Wednesday adopted a Senate resolution urging the Executive Department to support current efforts on a proposal, now under deliberation in the World Trade Organization, to relax relevant provisions in the
WTO’s TRIPS agreement when it comes to patents for Covid-19 vaccines and medicines.
Sen. Koko Pimentel, chairman of the Foreign Relations committee,
sponsored Senate Resolution 560 which, he said, has the “ultimate objective” to let WTO “come to consensus and be lenient” about enforcing intellectual
property provisions of the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement with regard to the Covid vaccines, given the urgency of allowing as many countries as possible to manufacture the life-saving medicines and jabs.
The proposal now being deliberated on by the WTO was proposed
by India and South Africa.
On October 2, 2020, India and South Africa communicated to the members of the Council for TRIPS at the WTO a proposal for the waiver of certain provisions of the TRIPS Agreement for the prevention, containment and treatment of Covid-19.
“It is important for WTO Members to work together to ensure that intellectual property rights such as patents, industrial designs, copyright and protection of undisclosed information do not create barriers to the timely access to affordable medical products including vaccines and medicines or to scaling-up of research, development, manufacturing and supply of medical products essential to combat Covid-19,” their proposal read.
During a meeting of the TRIPS Council in July, WTO members said they will continue discussions on the waiver proposal of certain TRIPS obligations.
In a formal TRIPS Council meeting in June, WTO said members “moved closer to a text-based process to address the proposals put forward by delegations aimed at improving the international response to Covid-19 and achieving the common goal of providing global equitable access to vaccines and other medical products.”
The TRIPS Agreement is a multilateral accord on intellectual property (IP) covering copyright and related rights, trademarks, geographical indications, industrial designs and patents, among others. The agreement, which took effect on January 1, 1995, sets the minimum standards of IP protection, enumerates enforcement procedures and covers dispute settlement.
“While delegations remain committed to the common goal of providing timely and secure access to high-quality, safe, efficacious and affordable vaccines and medicines for all, disagreement persisted on the fundamental question of what is the appropriate and most effective way to address the shortage and inequitable access to vaccines and other Covid-related products,” the WTO said.
Over 100 countries, according to previous reports, have supported the proposal which is seen to allow quicker mass production of the Covid-19 doses amid surging infection rate. They seek IP waiver instead of securing voluntary licensing.
In May, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said there is a slim chance that the waiver for Covid-19 vaccine IP rights will be approved by the WTO given the lack of consensus.