Health GAP, KEI, Oxfam, Public Citizen, Universities Allied for Essential Medicines and Professor Susan Sell have written Cameron Forbes Kerry, the General Counsel for the U.S. Department of Commerce, asking Kerry to “review work on the Africa Intellectual Property Forum, currently scheduled for April 3-5, 2012 in Cape Town, South Africa, to see if the sponsorship of the event violates Executive Order 13155, on Access to HIV/AIDS Pharmaceuticals and Medical Technologies.” Executive Order 13155 was issued by President Clinton on May 10, 2000 after an extensive review of U.S. trade policy as it related to access to patented medicines in sub-Saharan Africa. The executive order says that “the United States shall not seek, through negotiation or otherwise, the revocation or revision of any intellectual property law or policy” that undermines “access to HIV/AIDS pharmaceuticals or medical technologies,” so long as the countries are operating within WTO TRIPS norms. The letter to Kerry notes that African governments see the April 3-5 IP Forum program as the use of soft power by the Obama administration to change intellectual property laws and policies. The letter follows:
10 February 2012
Cameron Forbes Kerry
U.S. Department of Commerce
Office of the General Counsel
1401 Constitution Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20230
Re: Africa Intellectual Property Forum and EO 13155
Dear Mr. Kerry,
We are writing to ask the Department of Commerce to review work on the Africa Intellectual Property Forum, currently scheduled for April 3-5, 2012 in Cape Town, South Africa, to see if the sponsorship of the event violates Executive Order 13155, on Access to HIV/AIDS Pharmaceuticals and Medical Technologies.
The full name for the event is the Africa IP Forum: Intellectual Property, Regional Integration and Economic Growth in Africa. It will be held in Cape Town, South Africa, at the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC), on April 3-5, 2012. A Department of Commerce web page for the event is here:
According to this web page, the meeting is partly sponsored and funded by the following groups:
International Chamber of Commerce (ICC)-Business Action to Stop Counterfeiting and Piracy (BASCAP)
Adams & Adams
Dolby Laboratories, Inc.
Eli Lilly and Company
Spoor & Fisher
Among other things, the program covers a number of topics regarding intellectual property rights in pharmaceutical drugs, including both the enforcement of patents and the development of local production of pharmaceutical drugs.
The May 10, 2000 Executive Order 13155, on Access to HIV/AIDS Pharmaceuticals and Medical Technologies, provides for the following restrictions on government actions that would change intellectual property laws in a way to undermine access to pharmaceutical or medical technologies used to treat HIV/AIDS.
In administering sections 301-310 of the Trade Act of 1974, the United States shall not seek, through negotiation or otherwise, the revocation or revision of any intellectual property law or policy of a beneficiary sub-Saharan African country, as determined by the President, that regulates HIV/AIDS pharmaceuticals or medical technologies if the law or policy of the country: (1) promotes access to HIV/AIDS pharmaceuticals or medical technologies for affected populations in that country; and (2) provides adequate and effective intellectual property protection consistent with the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS Agreement) referred to in section 101(d)(15) of the Uruguay Round Agreements Act (19 U.S.C. 3511(d)(15)).
A number of public health and development groups have expressed concerns about this event, pointing to the lack of balance in the program, which features a number of advocates for corporate right owners. We believe that the program is perceived by African governments as a use of soft power by the Obama administration to change intellectual property laws and policies. We ask that you review this program to determine if the event violates EO 13155.
Brook K. Baker, Health GAP (Global Access Project), Professor, Northeastern U. School of Law, Program on Human Rights and the Global Economy, Honorary Research Fellow, University of KwaZulu Natal, Durban, S. Africa, 400 Huntington Ave., Boston, MA 02115 USA
Bryan Collinsworth, Executive Director, Universities Allied for Essential Medicines, 1611 Telegraph Ave. #550, Oakland, CA 94612 USA
James Love, Director, Knowledge Ecology International, 1621 Connecticut Avenue, Suite 500, Washington, DC 20009 USA
Peter Maybarduk, Global Access to Medicines Program Director, Public Citizen, 1600 20th Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20009 USA
Rohit Malpani, Senior Campaigns Advisor at Oxfam America, Oxfam America, 1100 15th St., NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20005 USA
Susan K. Sell, Professor of Political Science and International Affairs, Director, Institute for Global and International Studies, The George Washington University, 1957 E Street, NW Suite 501, Washington, DC 20052 USA