Authors: Mohamed Abdelhakim
Since the first Uruguay round on trade liberalization and harmonization of trade laws, going towards the Seattle round , the Marrakech agreement establishing of WTO and the agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS-Agreement) to the Doha negotiation rounds in 2001. The debate on patents and access to medicines have been a heated one of whether patents as a form of intellectual property protection do promote innovation providing the required incentives for pharmaceutical companies to produce innovative products that is in demand by societies where pharmaceutical companies operate or whether patents represent a major impediment for access to medicines in the developing world. Several questions are posed in the available literature to analyze the impact of almost twenty years post the TRIPS agreement and if it has achieved its objectives pushing the developing countries to invest more in to Research and Development (R&D) and to adopt innovation as a track in developing its economies. Improving technology transfer projects via voluntary licensing agreements between North and South ? increasing capacity building support in technology transfer as promised by developed to developing countries in the corridors of trade negotiation rounds and even as formal commitments from developed to developing countries. This paper examines some of these debatable questions via analyzing some of the major patent disputes over the past two decades post the implementation of the TRIPS agreement. The Author discusses 4 cases of patent disputes between pharmaceutical companies and governmental entities of developing countries. The paper focus on presenting the government’s argument on utilization of legal public health safeguards in the TRIPS agreements versus the case of the corporate party with focus on its mandate to protect its innovation and maximize shareholder’s value. The author then provides an analytical perspective on each case and provides reasons of his choice of being pro or against the case. The paper also looks at the highly pursued TRIPS-PLUS provisions in Bilateral and regional trade agreements by the US and EU governments to enforce stringent Intellectual Property Protection measures in developing countries. Finally the paper discusses some policy options to aid in improving access to medicines and building the local production and Research and Development capacity in developing countries without hampering access to medicines or impeding innovation capacity.