Public interest groups file U.N. complaint over U.S. IP policy
Claim program pressures developing countries to limit access to affordable medicines.
July 21, 2010
Nineteen public interest groups filed a joint complaint with the United Nations about a U.S. program that pressures developing countries to adopt intellectual property rules that, the groups claim, limit access to affordable medicines yet are not required by any international agreement.
The groups, represented by American University Washington College of Law's Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property, filed the complaint, known as an allegation letter, with the U.N.'s special rapporteur for the right to health on July 20.
The letter claims the U.S. trade representative's 'special 301' program threatens with sanctions foreign countries that don't comply with intellectual property laws favorable to major pharmaceutical companies. The special 301 program calls for the U.S. trade representative to send Congress an annual report listing countries that "deny adequate or effective" protection of intellectual property rights, or discriminate against U.S. companies that depend on intellectual property protection.
The complaint asks the United Nations "to call on the U.S. to halt its use of the special 301 program and other elements of its foreign policy to encourage and coerce developing countries to adopt intellectual property norms that restrict access to medicine," such as access to antiretroviral medicines for people living with HIV/AIDS. The complaint also asks the United Nations to encourage the United States to promote the World Trade Organization's Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, which gives developing countries some flexibility on intellectual property rules. ...