The World Health Organization (WHO) Intergovernmental Negotiating Body (INB) recently convened at INB7 to discuss the WHO Pandemic Accord, intended to strengthen pandemic prevention, preparedness and response (PPPR). In their discussions, Member States and stakeholders raised significant concerns regarding the potential negative impact of provisions related to intellectual property (IP) rights and technology transfer.
The United States shared some of the most comprehensive perspective behind the concerns, underscoring that “we should not undermine aspects of the system that worked in the response to COVID-19. Eliminating intellectual property protections will not effectively improve equitable access during pandemic emergencies and will, in fact, harm the systems that have served us well in the past. The United States believes strongly in IP protections, which serve to fuel investment and innovation.”
Statements from other delegations showed their appreciation of the vital role IP plays in fostering innovation to prepare, prevent, and respond to public health crises.
- The European Union expressed “strong reservations regarding some provisions drafted, in particular, those related to intellectual property rights and technology transfer.”
- This was echoed by countries including Sweden, which “strongly reserve[d them]selves against the draft provisions on intellectual property rights and technology transfer.”
- Italy highlighted “strong reservations in the proposed text, specifically IPR.”
Member States also stated that any global provisions related to IP need to be handled within the appropriate forums, namely the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), which recognized “that IP rights are important for the developing of new medical products” during the meeting.
- The United Kingdom reinforced “there are measures that [it] could not accept, such as waivers of intellectual property rights…[and] that the WTO is the appropriate forum to discuss our obligations on intellectual property.”
- Ireland, too, echoed that “provisions must respect the mandate and decision-making processes of the WTO and WIPO, which are the appropriate forum on IPR.”
Switzerland reinforced all these points and, importantly, underscored a key end goal: “to find realistic and implementable solutions on the entirety of the text, in particular…equitable access to medical countermeasures for all countries while protecting the right to intellectual property.”
Countries’ comments at INB7 made clear the need to protect the IP ecosystem and reject harmful anti-innovation provisions, while continuing to collaborate and find real solutions, like voluntary licensing, which will be critical to addressing future PPPR efforts.
“Eliminating intellectual property protections will not effectively improve equitable access during pandemic emergencies and will, in fact, harm the systems that have served us well in the past.”
– United States of America