US intellectual property report shows some improvement but still pressures poor countries on medicines

By mhart

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Washington, DC— International development agency Oxfam America noted progress in this year’s intellectual property report, but criticized the US government for continuing to push for stricter levels of intellectual property protection against developing countries that are seeking to bring affordable medicines to their poorest citizens.

"This year’s Special 301 Report reflects some positive efforts by the Obama administration to introduce a more inclusive public consultation process, take into account public health concerns, and acknowledge the right of countries to use some of the available safeguards under the TRIPS Agreement to promote and protect public health," said Rohit Malpani, senior policy advisor for Oxfam America. "However, Oxfam is disappointed that once again, the report continues to insist that poor countries adopt other US-style intellectual property standards that are aggressively promoted by the multinational pharmaceutical industry."

The yearly "Special 301" report identifies countries that, according to the US government, are not enforcing intellectual property rules and places individual countries on "watch lists," which could have detrimental impacts on foreign investment and trade in those countries. But according to Oxfam, countries are held to US intellectual property standards rather than international ones.

"These standards, from test data protection to determining the scope of what can be patented, are unwarranted in developing countries and exceed obligations under global trade rules," said Malpani. "Most importantly, they fail to promote innovation in the developing world and instead put profits over people by limiting access to affordable medicines in developing countries."

"Oxfam hopes the Administration will continue to work with public health groups constructively to ensure that US policy and practice fully respects the Doha Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health. The US should not punish developing countries seeking to use legal safeguards and flexibilities under the TRIPS Agreement to ensure access to affordable medicines," said Malpani. "More expensive medicines in poor countries does not lead to more innovation to their benefit, it just means poor people don’t get medicines."