TRIPS Council March 2016: India reiterates support for de-linkage and references UN High Level Panel on Access to Medicines

In early March 2016, the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) TRIPS Council discussed “Intellectual Property and Innovation: Education and Diffusion”. The following delegations co-sponsored discussion of this item on Education and Diffusion – Australia, European Union, Switzerland, United States, Japan, Singapore, Peru, Russian Federation, Chinese Taipei and Hong Kong China.

In its intervention on Education and Diffusion, the Government of India reiterated its support for the de-linkage of the costs of R&D from the prices of health technologies and drew the Council’s attention to the ongoing work of the United Nations High-Level Panel on Access to Medicines.

Here are the relevant excerpts. The full text of the intervention is attached at the bottom of this blog.

Mr.Chairman, let me just recall our intervention when the agenda item on Intellectual Property and Innovation was first introduced in the TRIPS Council. Our statement is still relevant when we are discussing ‘Education and Diffusion’ under the broad theme of Intellectual Property and Innovation. In that meeting India pointed out that the word “innovation” appeared just once in the TRIPS Agreement, in Article 7, which states that Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) “should contribute to the promotion of technological innovation and to the transfer and dissemination of technology,” and not for the sake of innovation itself, but “to the mutual advantage of producers and users of technological knowledge and in a manner conducive to social and economic welfare, and to a balance of rights and obligations.” Thus the TRIPS Agreement makes it very clear that the purpose of the Intellectual Property system is not solely to protect the commercial interests of the Intellectual Property holder but it is one of the many tools available to the society to achieve technological development, its social and economic welfare and innovation.

Mr.Chairman, innovation should not be viewed within the narrow prism of intellectual property monopolies but framed within a holistic, knowledge ecosystem that includes open innovation, open knowledge approaches and de-linkage of R&D costs from product prices. According to the Trilateral study by WTO, WHO and WIPO on “Promoting Access to Medical Technologies and Innovation: Intersections between public health, intellectual property and trade (2013) ”(Page 126),

The study also talks about the concept of delinking price of the final product from the costs of R&D by ‘push’ mechanisms such as grant funding and tax credits for investment in R&D and by ‘pull’ mechanisms that offer rewards for the final outcome of R&D of certain products like milestone or end prizes.

Mr.Chairman, in the context of Innovation and Access to Medicines, it is also pertinent to mention about the appointment of the United Nations Secretary General (UNSG)’s High-Level Panel on Access to Medicines (the High-Level Panel) in Nov 2015 comprising of 16 eminent individuals associated with the promotion of innovation and access to medicines in line with the ambitions of UN Member States as articulated in the 2030 Development agenda and in support of attaining Sustainable Development Goal 3, to ensure healthy lives and promote the well-being of all. The overall scope of the High-Level Panel is to “review and assess proposals and recommend solutions for remedying the policy incoherence between the justifiable rights of inventors, international human rights law, trade rules and public health in the context of health technologies”. The high-level panel is expected to present its final report to the Secretary-General in June 2016.