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WTO Working On Limited IPR Waiver For Covid Jabs

The World Trade Organisation (WTO) is working on a ‘compromise outcome’ that includes a limited and conditional waiver from certain intellectual property rights just for Covid-19 vaccines for developing countries. Under the proposal, the waiver can only be availed of by developing countries that accounted for less than 10% of total global exports of Covid-19 vaccine doses in 2021.

India and South Africa had in 2020 proposed a comprehensive waiver of certain provisions of copyrights, industrial designs, patents and protection of undisclosed information in the Trade-Related aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement for available Covid-19 treatments, technology and vaccines to help countries fight the pandemic. The move is now sponsored by 65 WTO members.

“The 10% export criterion is a positive for India as it leaves out China and the European Union (EU), but the transparency requirements can be a big hurdle,” said an expert on trade issues.

Biswajit Dhar, a professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University, expressed disappointment.

“It is a dilution from the high moral ground that India took in October 2020 which is essential to combat the pandemic. It is a disappointing proposal as 65 cosponsors are backing India including the Africa Group and more still joining us,” Dhar said.

Swadeshi Jagran Manch, opposed the proposal. “Though this is not an official document but such a proposal is not acceptable and we need an all-encompassing, comprehensive waiver that goes beyond vaccines and includes trade secrets. We must protect our offensive interests.”

The compromise, called the “outcome of the quadrilateral discussions,” was reached after talks among a subgroup of WTO countries including India, South Africa, the US and the EU. The text is being considered by the EU. “The product scope is limited to vaccines with a commitment to decide on the extension of the solution to therapeutics and diagnostics within six months from the date of the decision on vaccines,” as per the compromise outcome.


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