MSF urges WTO member countries to reject IP Waiver proposal

Our Bureau, MumbaiFriday, May 6, 2022, 08:00 Hrs  [IST]

Even as the proposal for the landmark intellectual property (IP) Waiver for Covid-19 medical tools has officially been tabled at the World Trade Organization (WTO), the Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has strongly urged all governments to reject this draft text, as it does not provide a meaningful solution to facilitate increasing people’s access to needed medical tools during the pandemic that has cost more than six million lives already, and in fact would set a negative precedent for future global health challenges.

“This draft text being discussed at the WTO is simply not the effective intellectual property Waiver that more than 100 governments were asking for, and governments should reject it,” said Yuanqiong Hu, Senior Legal and Policy Advisor for MSF's Access Campaign.

The controversial IP Waiver proposal for Covid-19 medical tools was tabled at the WTO almost one and a half years since India and South Africa first proposed this landmark IP Waiver.

The draft text is categorically different from the TRIPS Waiver introduced by India and South Africa, which proposes to waive patents and other IP barriers on all Covid-19 medical tools for the duration of the pandemic, and pave the way for any country to increase production and supply of these lifesaving medical tools. While the draft text attempts to address some restrictions on compulsory licensing rules for export, it fails to do so in a meaningful manner, the MSF said.

“This text fails to comprehensively address intellectual property challenges for Covid-19 medical tools as India and South Africa’s TRIPS Waiver proposal does: the disappointing draft text covers only vaccines, excluding treatments and diagnostics, it fails to address non-patent intellectual property barriers such as trade secrets, and it restricts which countries can make use of it. In addition, limitations and requirements in the draft text could possibly undermine existing flexibilities and this would be an unnecessary step backwards. If the draft text is agreed without thorough and substantive revisions, it would set a negative and detrimental precedent for future global health challenges. It’s beyond time for governments to move forward with negotiations on a TRIPS Waiver text that could be effective, like the one proposed almost seventeen months ago,” Hu said.

MSF has clearly outlined that the final agreed TRIPS Waiver must cover not only vaccines, but all essential medical technologies, including treatments and tests, that all countries should be covered, and that the duration of the Waiver should be at least five years, in order to support the manufacturing and supply of Covid-19 medical tools, including needed materials and components, to be prepared, scaled up, diversified and sustained.