Paper by Prof. Flynn and two PIJIP LL.M. Students Quoted in TechDirt Story on Proposed TRIPS Waiver

November 19, 2021

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Prof. Sean Flynn, Erica Nkrumah, Luca Schirru

A recent PIJIP/TLS working paper by PIJIP Director Sean Flynn and LL.M. students Erica Nkrumah and Luca Schirru was the focus of a recent story in TechDirt on the proposed "TRIPS Waiver" at the World Trade Organization (WTO). The TRIPS Waiver is a proposal by South Africa and India to temporarily waive trade obligations to protect intellectual property rights in instances where necessary for "the prevention, containment and treatment of COVID-19". It is supported by most countries in the world, but opposed by a small group of wealthy countries. One of the issues in the negotiations is whether a waiver should apply to many forms of intellectual property, or whether it should be restricted to patents. (The current text would apply to patents, copyright, industrial designs, and undisclosed information.)

The TechDirt story by Glyn Moody uses Flynn, Nkrumah, and Schirru's paper to illustrate the importance of copyright's inclusion in the waiver. The paper, "Non-Patent Intellectual Property Barriers to COVID-19 Vaccines, Treatment and Containment," documents many instances where copyright blocks the efforts of researchers to contribute to the fight against COVID-19, some of which are quoted in the story. For instance, "20% of researchers globally, and over 30% of researchers in South America (where copyright exceptions are the most limited), report that COVID has “completely” altered or halted their work." 

Copyright can also block the efforts of medical professionals to contain COVID-19. This example from the paper is quoted in the TechDirt:

Even if a competing vaccine or treatment is lawfully produced with respect to patent law, there are opportunities for companies to use copyrights to halt or delay generic marketing. The issue arises because labels and package inserts – which convey information often required by regulators – may be considered protected by copyright in some countries. There is a history of pharmaceutical companies making such claims (ultimately ineffectively) in the U.S. A recent report by WTO and WIPO [World Intellectual Property Organization] explained that the practice of using copyrights to block generic production continues in other countries.

Click here for the TechDirt story.

Click here for the PIJIP working paper.