Thursday, 17 April 2014

Is there such a thing as policy ‘space’ in TRIPS?

An actual space trip!
Answering this question has been the task of The Max Planck Institute for Innovation and Competition, together with a number of international patent scholars around the world – including ‘Latinos’ contributors such as Carlos Correa (Director of the Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies on Industrial Property and Economics Law, University of Buenos Aires (Argentina)) and Denis Borges Barbosa (Professor at the Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro (Brazil)). The “Declaration on Patent Protection: Regulatory Sovereignty under TRIPS” (“Patent Declaration” in short) can be assessed here.

Today the “Patent Declaration”, which indeed shows the policy space in TRIPS, is launched and we can participate and support it. According to Matthias Lamping (currently a Senior Research Fellow at the Max Planck Institute, who kindly passed the information to the iptango), “The Patent Declaration supplements our existing work on issues of international IP law, such as the Declaration on a ‘Balanced Interpretation of the Three-Step Test in Copyright Law’ (www.ip.mpg.de/en/pub/news/declaration-threesteptest.cfm), which deals with limitations and exceptions to copyright protection, and the ‘Principles for Intellectual Property Provisions in Bilateral and Regional Agreements’ (www.ip.mpg.de/en/pub/news/fta_statement.cfm).”

Scanning through the ‘Patent Declaration’ it seems that actually international law leaves policy space for pursuing national interest. For example, the declaration explains that there exists flexibility for states to use compulsory licenses. Indeed, it asserts that this is “ensured by the fact that neither Article 31 of the TRIPS Agreement nor Article 5A of the Paris Convention contains any restriction with regard to the grounds on which a compulsory licence may be issued.”

Another point covered by the declaration is ‘transit’. The “Patent Declaration” goes on to say that “ Patent rights should not create barriers to legitimate trade (cf. Recital 1 of the Preamble and Article 41 of the TRIPS Agreement). Goods in transit cannot be deemed to infringe any of the exclusive rights that a patent normally confers if those goods are not destined for the market of the country where transit occurs. The territoriality principle applicable under patent law has not been overridden by the TRIPS Agreement (see, for example, Paragraph 6(i) in fine of the 30 August 2003 WTO decision on the ‘Implementation of Paragraph 6 of the Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health’, concerning the export of pharmaceutical products produced or imported under a compulsory licence). Customs authorities and courts of the country of transit usually lack competence to determine whether goods in transit are infringing in the countries of origin or destination and cannot decide to grant preliminary or permanent injunctions in their respect.
The detention of goods by customs authorities based on claims of infringement can also violate the principle of freedom of transit enshrined in Article V of the GATT.”
In this point, I am sure we could hear some opinions from Brazil – you may remember several seizures of generic drugs in transit by the Dutch customs authorities in 2008 and 2009 which showed friction between the European Union legislation and the World Trade Organization.

I leave you with this piece of information in the hope that it would be of interest to you.

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