Today, CCIA endorsed a bid by the world’s Least Developed Countries (LDC’s) to remove any specific deadline for full compliance with the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement. As a technology trade organization, CCIA believes premature implementation of stepped up protections would be counterproductive, adding costs to public health systems and other administrative burdens at a moment when these countries are contending with human and technological barriers to modernization.
“These countries will eventually benefit from implementing a balanced intellectual property system, but they need to be free to do this when they judge themselves ready, not on an arbitrary timeline set by others, ” said CCIA President and CEO Ed Black.
“We all look forward to the day when there are no more LDCs, but as long as any country’s people are living on two dollars a day they should have complete flexibility in IP protection implementation. It is the right thing to do, therefore, to join the United Nations and hundreds of other organisations worldwide in supporting their request for more time, and we call upon the business community generally to join us.”
First introduced in 1995, the TRIPS Agreement was meant to create a common level of global protections for intellectual property. It has become clear in the interim that where LDCs implement the rules without appropriate safeguards it can extract a heavy toll on their ability to innovate and secure access to medicines and other essential technologies. According to the United Nations Development Programme, the 49 LDCs are home to 9.7 million of the 34 million people living with HIV worldwide. Of that number, 4.6 million were eligible for treatment, in accordance with 2010 World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines, but only 2.5 million were receiving it, due to the costs of the medicines themselves as well as constraints on these countries’ health budgets.
Recognizing this and related issues, the international community built flexibilities into the implementation plan to allow countries more time, but not enough. The latest extension is due to expire on July 31 of this year. The TRIPS Council next meets on March 5th and 6th in Geneva, and a proposal submitted on behalf of LDCs requests a further extension to the general exemption from full TRIPS compliance for as long as a country remains an LDC.
CCIA draws particular attention to an international civil society letter drafted in the ramp up to the talks by more than 375 signatory NGO’s who argue “any attempt to weaken or to refuse Least Developed Countries (LDCs)… will show that the multilateral trading system is unable to benefit the poorest and most vulnerable segment of the international community.”
“A balanced and effective intellectual property system is a key element of any national innovation strategy but it should not be implemented in a vacuum. No legal system will be seen as legitimate by a country’s citizens, if it appears to be blind to basic human needs, like access to medicine. One of the best ways to prove IP’s continuing relevance to the modern world is to give LDCs the right to decide for themselves when it is appropriate to implement TRIPS,” said CCIA Geneva Representative Nick Ashton-Hart.”