News: Public health advocates and intellectual property rights experts point to a contradiction in India’s global push for the suspension of intellectual property protection, with its stand in the Supreme Court that bringing COVID-19 vaccines under a statutory regime will be counter-productive at this stage.
- A patent is an exclusive monopoly granted by a government to an inventor for a limited, pre-specified time. It provides an enforceable legal right to prevent others from copying the invention.
- Patents can be either process patents or product patents. A product patent ensures that the rights to the final product are protected, and anyone other than the patent holder can be restrained from manufacturing it during a specified period, even if they were to use a different process.
- A process patent enables any person other than the patent holder to manufacture the patented product by modifying certain processes in the manufacturing exercise.
- India moved from product patenting to process patenting in the 1970s. But due to obligations arising out of the TRIPS Agreement, India had to amend the Patents Act in 2005, and switch to a product patents regime across the pharma, chemicals, and biotech sectors.
- India, along with South Africa, had initiated a proposal for the temporary waiver of certain provisions in the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) to facilitate fair, affordable and universal access to COVID vaccines and medicines, especially for developing countries.
- The two countries had highlighted that some WTO members had carried out urgent legal amendments to their national patent laws to expedite the process of issuing compulsory/government use licences.
- However, experts point to an affidavit filed by the Centre in the SC, which shows the government taking a different stand in favour of the protection of intellectual property rights.
- “Any exercise of statutory powers either under the Patents Act, 1970 read with TRIPS Agreement and Doha Declaration or in any other way can only prove to be counter-productive at this stage,” the Centre said.
- This was in response to the order of the SC which had flagged the legal framework within which the Centre could “possibly consider compulsory licensing and government acquisition of patents”.
- Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Right (TRIPS) is an agreement on international IP rights.
- TRIPS came into force in 1995, as part of the agreement that established the World Trade Organisation.
- TRIPS establishes minimum standards for the availability, scope, and use of seven forms of intellectual property namely, trademarks, copyrights, geographical indications, patents, industrial designs, layout designs for integrated circuits, and undisclosed information or trade secrets.
- It applies basic international trade principles regarding intellectual property to member states. It is applicable to all WTO members.
- TRIPS Agreement lays down the permissible exceptions and limitations for balancing the interests of intellectual property with the interests of public health and economic development. The TRIPS Council is responsible for administering and monitoring the operation of the TRIPS Agreement.
- TRIPS was negotiated during the Uruguay Round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) in 1986–1994. The TRIPS Agreement is also described as a “Berne and Paris-plus” Agreement.