Pharmaceutical Industry Launches Document on IP Principles Amid Push for TRIPS Waiver
Red and white capsules in pharmaceutical production line.

Amid a huge global push for the World Trade Organization (WTO) to waive intellectual property (IP) rights on products related to COVID-19 for the duration of the pandemic, the pharmaceutical industry launched a document on Monday – World IP Day – asserting that a “strong IP system advances public health” .

According to the 10-point IP Principles for Advancing Cures and Therapies (IP PACT), IP is the “cornerstone” for the creation of new diagnostics, treatments and vaccines.

The industry declares that “society benefits from the disclosure and dissemination of the information contained in patents and patent applications” and commits itself to “support voluntary and meaningful initiatives that make information about patented medicines more easily available and accessible, and improve the public understanding of the global patent status of approved medicines”.

“We believe that intellectual property is a key facilitator of medical progress and we are committed to patient and societal benefit as guiding principles in our IP practices,” states the document’s first principle.

Meanwhile, it’s 10th and final principle declares that “all countries, including Least Developed Countries (LDCs), stand to benefit from the implementation of the TRIPS Agreement and effective IP regimes”. 

But in recognition of socio-economic challenges faced by these countries, the industry proposes “a time-based transition period for LDCs to meet the TRIPS standards while they focus on overcoming these structural challenges and work towards implementing the necessary framework to protect and enforce IP”. 

Industry Commits to Engaging with Least-Developed Countries

In the meantime, the industry commits to engaging with LDCs in a way that “takes into account their unique challenges”, and this could include “voluntary licensing, non-assert policies or selective approaches to filing, in addition to supporting capacity-building initiatives”. 

“IP has been the oil in the machine of collaboration during this pandemic that has seen unprecedented cooperation and sharing of know-how,” explains Andrew Jenner, Director-General of Interpat, the pharmaceutical industry organisation that focuses on patents and IP.

Jenner says that the IP PACT explains how the industry uses IP in practice for the benefit of patients and society.

Corey Salsberg, Novartis Vice-President and Global Head IP Affairs, told the launch that the IP PACT had been developed to ensure that patients and broader society “have a better understanding of how we approach IP, which is as a means to drive life-changing medical innovations, and as a tool to advance our efforts to contribute solutions to the world’s healthcare challenges”.  

“Several of the principles pertain specifically to themes that are on full display in the COVID context, such as the important role that IP plays in enabling collaborations and partnerships, driving innovation, and bringing together the expertise and capacity needed to achieve things like manufacturing breakthrough technologies on a global scale,” added Salsberg.

An investigation by Intercept published last week revealed that over 100 lobbyists have been paid to approach US politicians to urge them to oppose the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Waiver proposed by South Africa and India at the WTO.

It also comes a few days after the claim by the People’s Vaccine Alliance that Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca have paid $26bn in dividends and stock buyouts to shareholders in the past year – enough to cover Africa’s entire COVID-19 vaccination programme.

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