WTO TRIPS Council (February 2015): EU statement on LDC extension of transition period for pharmaceutical products

The following statement was delivered by the European Union at the February 2015 session in response to the proposal by the LDC Group Request for an Extension of the Transitional Period Under Article 66.1 of the TRIPS Agreement for Least Developed Country Members with Respect to Pharmaceutical Products and for Waivers from the Obligation of Articles 70.8 and 70.9 of the TRIPS Agreement.

In particular, the European Union noted,

Some have tried to argue on the basis of a 2013 press release that the EU considers that the general transition does not apply for obligations with respect to pharmaceutical products and consequently, that such obligations would be reinstated by 1 January 2016.

The EU would like to clarify that it considers that the general waiver period for least developed countries' general obligation to protect intellectual property under TRIPS, does also apply to least-developed countries' flexibility not to provide patent protection for pharmaceuticals.

Statement read by the EU at the TRIPS Council meeting on 24 February on Extension of transition period for pharmaceutical patents for Least Developed Countries
  • Thank Bangladesh for submitting a communication on behalf of the least-developed countries requesting an extension of the transitional period under article 66.1 TRIPS and a waiver regarding article 70.8 and 70.9. Regrettably it came on too short notice to allow us to comment now, but we will certainly do it at the next TRIPS Council.
  • Allow me however to make the following clarifying statement regarding recent discussions on this subject at the WTO, where reference was made to alleged interpretations by the EU on the TRIPS obligations by LDCs:
  • From the outset of discussions, the EU has recognised the importance of flexibility and policy space for Least Developed Countries' needs. It has always supported extending the general transition period until 1 July 2021, as agreed by WTO members on 11 June 2013.
  • Some have tried to argue on the basis of a 2013 press release that the EU considers that the general transition does not apply for obligations with respect to pharmaceutical products and consequently, that such obligations would be reinstated by 1 January 2016.
  • The EU would like to clarify that it considers that the general waiver period for least developed countries' general obligation to protect intellectual property under TRIPS, does also apply to least-developed countries' flexibility not to provide patent protection for pharmaceuticals.