Timeline of the Dominican congressional intellectual property debates, 1997-2000

This timeline provides copies of official documents not published before about the U.S. pressures in the Dominican Republic during the congressional debates that led to the adoption of the TRIPS-implementing legislation Law 20-00. These documents were obtained via FOIA requests. A previous and more detailed timeline about U.S. pressures in the Dominican Republic is available here.

1997. May 9. The U.S. Embassy in Santo Domingo reports to Washington the outcome of an USAID-funded event titled “Arbitration, intellectual property, and judicial ethics”. The speakers were Richard C. Wilder, Attorney Advisor for the USPTO; Leslie Ackerman, Assistant Vice-President of the International Division of PhRMA; and Jay Monahan, working with Disney and the Motion Picture Association. There were “heated exchanges” during a meeting between Ackerman and representatives from the association of generic companies, INFADOMI.

1997. July 15. USPTO Attorney Advisor Richard C. Wilder sends an analysis of the Dominican patent bill to the U.S. Embassy in Santo Domingo. Wilder highlights a long list of issues he considered inconsistent with the WTO, including article 36 which provided a time limit of 180 days in which voluntary agreements must be reached before granting a compulsory license.

1997. August 1. The U.S. Department of State was “concerned” with reports suggesting that the Dominican government had hired a consultant, whose name was redacted, “associated with the Argentine pirate pharmaceutical industry” to review the USPTO comments on the patent bill.

1997. August 29. The U.S. Embassy in Santo Domingo updates Washington on the discussions around the proposed patent bill. This cable acknowledges the involvement of Argentinian academic Carlos Correa as a consultant for the Dominican government.

1997. August 29. The U.S. Embassy in Santo Domingo states there is a need to “keep the flame alive” and called for “a visit of someone competent to discuss the role of patent protection in enhancing development, TRIPS requirements, and potential sanctions for those WTO members who flout the TRIPS agreement”.

1998. March 13. The U.S. Embassy in Santo Domingo reports to Washington that Dominican generic companies “seems to have significant clout at the Secretariat of Industry and Commerce”. “The eloquence” of Ho-Chi Vega, a member of INFADOMI, is singled out.

1998. October 23. The U.S. Embassy in Santo Domingo reports to Washington that a health bill introduced in the Dominican Chamber of Deputies proposed a provision requiring the prior consent of health authorities before granting a pharmaceutical patent. Local attorney Mary Fernández Rodríguez gave this information to the U.S. Embassy in Santo Domingo.

1998. October 23. The U.S. Embassy in Santo Domingo reports to Washington, in detail, a list of ongoing legal actions triggered by “the good guys”.

1999. March 17. The U.S. Embassy in Santo Domingo reports to Washington, and calls for WIPO’s involvement suggesting that WIPO is “well respected here and a few insistent words from them would help enormously to create an understanding that something has gone wrong”.

1999. July 23. The U.S. Embassy in Santo Domingo reports to Washington regarding a meeting between an U.S. official with a Dominican counterpart. The first issue raised was the proposal filed by the Dominican Republic at the WTO jointly with Cuba, Egypt, and Honduras, requesting an extension of the transition periods to implement the TRIPS agreement. The Dominican Foreign Minister “immediately issued a statement to the press repudiating the WTO action”.

1999. September 14. The U.S. Embassy in Santo Domingo took “full advantage” of a USAID-funded visit of John Marshall Law School professor Doris Long “to reinforce the message that full and timely implementation of TRIPS is in the best interests of the DR”. The issues Doris Long addressed with “government officials, industry representatives, and others” included patentable subject matter and the regime for compulsory licenses.

1999. November 19. Acting U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic Linda E. Watt met with three Dominican legislators, including majority leader at the Chamber of Deputies Rafaela Albuquerque, to discuss the “shortcomings” of the patent bill that was passed in the Senate. Ambassador Watt told them that they could “either support the interests of a small group of IPR pirates, or support the interests of the Free Trade Zone exporters who could be hurt by trade sanctions if adequate IPR legislation is not passed and implemented”.

1999. November 22. The U.S. Embassy in Santo Domingo provides a full account of the USAID-funded visits of John Marshall Law School professor Doris Long, sent to “assists the D.R. in ensuring that their IPR legislation is WTO-compliant”. Doris Long went to the country in January and September of 1999, and was invited again to go in December of that same year.

1999. December 10. The U.S. Embassy in Santo Domingo describes the third visit of professor Doris Long to the Dominican Republic. The first issue she addressed was that compulsory licenses were “too easy to obtain”, as drafted in the proposed patent bill.

2000. January 7. The U.S. Ambassador in Santo Domingo met with ten senators, led by majority leader Ramón Alburquerque, to address several issues – including the implementation of TRIPS. Alburquerque “responded in a somewhat defensive manner” when the Ambassador inquired about the pending patent bill introduced in Congress.

2000. March 16. PhRMA filed a pre-hearing statement and request to appear at a public hearing the USTR was organizing on the eligibility of the Dominican Republic to the General System of Preference (GSP) program. Among other issues, PhRMA highlighted as “deficiencies in the Dominican Republic intellectual property regime” the provisions for compulsory licenses, protection of confidential data, and patent subject matter.

2000. March 23. The U.S., E.U., U.K., France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Japan, and Korea Ambassadors in Santo Domingo met with leaders of the Dominican Congress with “one message: fix the bill”. Two of the “better-informed members of the group” explained that the proposed mechanism for granting compulsory license was compatible with TRIPS.

2000. May 8. The new patent law was signed by President Leonel Fernández.

2000. May 12. The USTR holds a hearing on the eligibility of the Dominican Republic to the GSP program. The Dominican government defended the new patent law, insisting that it was TRIPS-compliant. PhRMA called for a review of the GSP eligibility suggesting that if the Dominican patent law was implemented “the negative precedent will harm prospects for effective patent protection in the region and the larger developing world”.