Government gears up for WTO patent battle
The government has virtually ruled out the possibility of using compulsory licensing as a tool to ramp up vaccine production due to implementation challenges, while recognising that a tough battle lies ahead in getting all World Trade Organization (WTO) members to back the emergency patent waiver plan to boost medical supplies to combat Covid-19.
- Although India and South Africa’s joint proposal for a three-year TRIPS waiver for vaccines, drugs and equipment has been submitted, along with several other poor and developing countries.
- The government recognises that it is yet to get the support of key members such as Japan, Switzerland, Australia and even Brazil just to negotiate the text. Even Germany and other members of the European Union are not fully on board.
- The US has approached some countries and India is using diplomatic channels to reach out to the naysayers, but top government sources said there is still a long way to go. Ultimately, we need consensus and that is not going to be easy.
- The other challenge is seen to be coming from the WTO leadership, with some quarters still batting for voluntary licensing arrangements between global giants and local players, which India, South Africa, Pakistan, Indonesia and the other proponents believe are not sufficient.
- At WTO, the EU too has been suggesting the use of compulsory licensing but the government believes that it is too cumbersome to get product and country-specific waivers.
- The government’s stand will provide comfort to industry, as lobby groups such as Ficci had openly opposed the suggestions.