Initial Response to UK Government Commission on Intellectual Property
the CIPR report which provides a powerful evidence-based critique of
the heath and development problems caused by the one-size-fits-all approach
of WTO patent rules (TRIPS). The report's findings reflect many of the
concerns expressed by developing countries, academics, NGOs and others
about the application of rich country intellectual property (IP) standards
to poor countries and medicines. It also recognizes the excessive corporate
influence there has been over global IP rules.
also picks up many of the recommendations put forward by developing
countries and NGOs on health and development. Encouragingly, it reaffirms
that private IP rights should not take precedence over human rights,
makes useful recommendations about how developing countries can make
maximum use of the existing flexibilities within TRIPS, proposes extending
implementation deadlines for least developed countries, and calls for
an end to rich country pressure to get poor countries to implement standards
or timetables which go beyond their TRIPS commitments (TRIPS-plus).
If implemented these proposals could bring important benefits to poor
that the UK government will consult with developing country governments
and civil society about the best way to take forward these important
findings. A vital first step will be for WTO members to agree to lift
TRIPS restrictions on exports of generic medicines to all developing
a commitment made at the WTO Doha Ministerial in November 2001 that
some rich countries are now seeking to water down.
the main thrust of the report is that TRIPS is essentially bad for development,
the recommendations fall short of calling for its reform. This reflects,
in part, the authors' pessimism about current power imbalances at the
WTO. They fear that, in the horse-trading that characterises WTO trade
negotiations, poor countries will have to pay too high a price for TRIPS'
reform. But this approach leaves a bad Agreement intact and embroils
developing countries in a complicated damage limitation exercise for
which many are ill-equipped. In short, while it rescues much of the
crockery, it leaves the elephant in the kitchen. Oxfam would prefer
to see the elephant removed. One way of doing so would be by extending
the implementation deadlines for developing, as well as least developed,
is on rich country governments to disprove this pessimistic assessment
of the new 'development' round of trade negotiations. To this end we
urge the UK Government to use the report's findings to call for a substantive
review and revision of TRIPS outside of the current trade negotiations.
Such a step would demonstrate a genuine commitment by rich country governments
to transform the WTO from a rich man's club to one that puts poverty
reduction at the top of its agenda, as promised at Doha in 2001.