Least-developed countries (LDCs) including Bangladesh that are members of WTO have been granted another set of extension of the exemption until January 2033 for implementing the relevant provisions of the TRIPS (Trade Related Aspect of Intellectual Property Rights) with regard to pharmaceuticals patents. This means that the exempted countries will continue to enjoy the maximum flexibility in terms of choosing whether or not to protect pharmaceutical patents until 2033 within their respective countries.
The WTO Council for TRIPS reached to this decision in Geneva on November 06, 2015. This is in line with the strategies laid out by the WTO ministers in the 2001 Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health, as well as the Sustainable Development Goal (SDGs) set up by the United Nations, which supports the developing countries right to utilize TRIPS flexibilities to ensure access to medicine for all. Therefore, the waiver is of crucial importance to the goal of increasing access to medicines for all.
Roberto Azevêdo, Director-General of WTO welcomed this decision taken by the TRIPS Council. “This decision by the TRIPS Council represents a clear and unambiguous signal that WTO members are committed to addressing the needs of the organization's poorest members. With the concerns of least developed countries at center stage next month at our Nairobi Ministerial Conference, now is the time for WTO to build upon this momentum in other areas of our work,” said Director-General Azevêdo.
Shameem Ahsan, Ambassador of Bangladesh, who coordinated the LDC group in the WTO, acclaimed the decision as “historic”. He further added that this “will assure the LDCs the necessary legal certainty to procure or to produce generic medicines for those who need it most but do not have any access.”
The goal for ensuring “access to affordable essential medicines and vaccines”, to all at all ages and the cause for protecting public health, more specifically, access to medicines for all, will be intensified in LDC countries including Bangladesh, who are already exempted from implementing all substantive TRIPS standards within their respective systems.
Ever since the Uruguay Roundtable Trade Negotiation, Bangladesh, to comply with the decisions of the said Roundtable, had to act on various obligations including the commitment on introducing national rules and regulations, or bringing amendments to existing set of national rules and regulations to align them with the provisions of various WTO treaties.
Despite making laws and regulations in observance of the WTO treaties, implementation of such rules has always been a challenge for Bangladesh. Bangladesh, therefore, together with other LDCs appealed for an extension of the time frame for implementing the TRIPS Agreement for pharmaceutical products.
With this decision the LDCs are now expected to have extension of two more waivers with regard to the (i) exclusive marketing rights for pharmaceuticals and (ii) “mailbox” measures for receiving patent applications in the field of pharmaceutical products. This will supplement and foster the impact of the decision to exclude obligations concerning pharmaceuticals patents until 2033.
However, with Bangladesh’s transition from LDC to Middle Income Country, this decision of extension will result in non-applicability to Bangladesh. Hence Bangladesh should try to make most out of this benefit until it remains as LDC.