According to the reports in the media, amidst the potential emergence of new variants, four member countries of the World Trade Organization (WTO), including India and South Africa, have jointly called for an extension of the patent waiver to cover COVID-19 diagnostics and therapeutics.
The appeal was made during an informal meeting of the Trade-Related aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Council held in Geneva on Wednesday, according to an official source, the reports in the media stated. The media reports further informed that last year in June, WTO members reached an agreement to provide a temporary patent waiver for the manufacturing of COVID-19 vaccines for a duration of five years. Additionally, discussions were initiated, as proposed by India and South Africa, to include therapeutics and diagnostics within the scope of this waiver, the report added.
Reportedly advocates for the extension argue that the decision on this matter has been overdue and should be addressed at the upcoming General Council (GC) meeting of the WTO in December. The General Council is the second highest decision-making body of the organisation, following the Ministerial Conference. The 13th Ministerial Conference is scheduled to take place in Abu Dhabi in February next year.
The countries supporting the extension, including South Africa, India, Indonesia, and Brazil, emphasised that the COVID-19 pandemic is still a present concern, and the risk of new variants remains significant. They stressed the need for the WTO to demonstrate relevance and credibility by providing responses not only to trade-related matters but also to development issues.
The TRIPS agreement, in effect since January 1995, is a multilateral agreement covering Intellectual Property (IP) rights, including copyright, industrial designs, patents, and protection of undisclosed information or trade secrets. The WTO, a 164 member multilateral body, formulates rules for global exports and imports and adjudicates disputes between countries on trade-related issues, the media report highlighted.