India and S. Africa move to WTO on COVID-19 Prevention.

India and South Africa have asked for a waiver on certain provisions of the international agreements regulating the intellectual property rights in the World Trade Organization (WTO). This step has been taken in order to speed up efforts that prevent, treat and contain the COVID-19 pandemic.

What was the issue?

  • Both the countries have highlighted that there were several reports about intellectual property rights that were obstructing timely provisioning of affordable medical products to COVID-19 patients.
  • Another concern for both the countries were insufficient or no manufacturing capacity requirements and a lengthy process of the import and export of the pharmaceutical products.
  • Many countries including the developing countries faced institutional and legal difficulties while using the flexibilities available in the TRIPS Agreement.
  • There was another concern that other intellectual property rights may also pose a barrier beyond the patents with limited options to overcome those barriers.
  • Further,  medical products companies including the medicine and vaccine manufacturers of both the countries want to get profit by keeping the monopoly rights through intellectual protection in the pandemic.

What is the Solution?

  • WTO needs to ensure that intellectual property rights do not create barriers to timely access to affordable medical products.
  • WTO should also ensure the scaling up of research, development, manufacturing and supply of medical products in order to combat the COVID-19.
  • TRIPS Obligations should be waived off to ensure availability and affordability of medical products.

TRIPS Agreement

The Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) is an  international agreement between the member countries of the World Trade Organization (WTO) which is administered by WTO itself. The agreement sets a  minimum standards for the regulation of different forms of intellectual property (IP). These are applied to all nationals of the  WTO member nations.  This agreement was negotiated at the end of the Uruguay Round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT).

General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT)

GATT is a legal agreement between countries in order to promote international trade by reducing or eliminating trade barriers including the tariffs or quotas. It was constituted after the failure of governments to create the International Trade Organization (ITO). The WTO is a successor to the GATT.