2-26 Trade Related Intellectual Property Presentation Highlights

Hello Fellow Humphrey Students,

Does everybody know that every two weeks there is a great lecture series happening right here at the humphrey? The Freeman Center for International Economic Policy and the Humphrey jointly sponsor these Global Policy workshops. These are a great way to put your finger on the pulse of international economic issues. I encourage you all to attend. They happen every other Tuesday from 12:45 to 2pm in the Stassen Room. As of now, snacks and drinks are provided, but with increased attendance, more goodies could be on the way.

Today's talk was given by Professor Thomas F. Cotter of the University of Minnesota Law School
His talk focused on TRIPs and Essential Medicines.

The TRIPs (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) Agreement requires adherence by all 151 member states of the World Trade Organization (WTO). But TRIPs has been controversial since its inception in 1995, in large part because of its obligation to extend patent protection to pharmaceuticals (or at least to do so over time). This obligation proved to be extremely unpopular in much of the developing world and produced a backlash reflected in the 2001 Doha Declaration endorsing greater flexibility.

Specifically, now developing countries have the right to issue "Compulsory Licensing" of medicines when the need arises. Professor Cotter showed that there has been only one use of compulsory licensing by a developing country (Rawanda used this power for AIDS medication).

The big question is, now that the TRIPs agreement is more favorable to developing countries than before, why don't
more countries take advantage of this provision? The answer, unfortunately, is a matter of power and politics. Countries who consider issuing compulsory licensing face pressure from big pharmaceutical companies to avoid this step. Sometimes these two parties work out an agreement, and sometimes the country is bullied into not exercising their right to obtain the medicine.

What can be learned from these experiences? To make an effective policy, it must be in the interest of all parties. That's a lesson I learned in John Bryson's Strategic Planning and Management class.

I hope you can join next time. It's a doorway to a larger world. Come on in!

Matt Henry

Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs