Global governance to tackle the pandemic
Professor Jayashree Watal, Honorary Professor at the National Law University, Delhi, and economist Luciano Martins Costa Póvoa, an advisor to the Brazilian Federal Senate, proposed a global governance system for the production and distribution of vaccines and supplies to fight against the coronavirus. On October 4th, they attended the international webinar promoted by ABPI – Brazilian Intellectual Property Association. “Possible modifications in TRIPs given the Covid-19 pandemic”, which also featured Roberta Arantes and Aline Ferreira de Carvalho da Silva, coordinators of ABPI’s International Law of Intellectual Property Study Committee.
Jayashree Watal considers the proposal to waive intellectual property rights provided for in TRIPs, the global agreement to guarantee these rights within the scope of the WTO (World Trade Organization) an infeasible solution for the accessing of vaccines by the poorest countries. “It is a strategic tool to put pressure on companies, but it also is complicated to force developers to transfer technology”, she said. “Right now we need faster action, global coordination, and an implementing agency”. According to her, compulsory licensing does not solve the problem either. “Compulsory licensing only works when technology is copyable, and when the originator grants it collaboratively”.
For Costa Póvoa, the waiver of IP rights under TRIPs being proposed by India and South Africa is practically impossible to put into practice. He recalled that a patent, when opened, gives access to many other protected technologies, which makes the protection system vulnerable. “A messenger RNA is not just a patent, but a technology platform, and it encompasses a large number of patents around it”, he said. Costa Póvoa finds it difficult for less developed countries to produce vaccines based on compulsory licensing. “Reverse engineering a vaccine is extremely complicated, it requires very close contact with the holder of the technology”, he explained. “It is better to think about a greater global coordination to filter technologies and produce patents at lower costs, which could be used by everyone while remunerating the holders of these technologies”.