Implications of the Doha Declaration on the Trips Agreement and Public Health - Health Economics and Drugs Series No. 012
(2002; 56 pages) [French] [Spanish] View the PDF document
Table of Contents
View the documentForeword
View the documentAcknowledgements
View the documentAbbreviations and acronyms
View the documentExecutive summary
View the documentIntroduction
View the documentScope
View the documentThe role of TRIPS and IPRs
Open this folder and view contentsPublic health measures
Close this folderFlexibility in TRIPS
View the documentInterpretation
View the documentCompulsory licences
View the documentEmergency
View the documentExhaustion
Open this folder and view contentsMembers with insufficient or no manufacturing capacities
View the documentTransfer of technology to LDCs
View the documentExtension of transitional period for LDCs
View the documentSpecial treatment under TRIPS
View the documentLegal status of the Doha Declaration
View the documentIssues not covered in the Declaration
View the documentConclusions
View the documentAnnex 1 - Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health
View the documentAnnex 2 - Levels of development of pharmaceutical industry, by country
View the documentReferences

Compulsory licences

Doha Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health: Sub-paragraph 5 (b)

5. Accordingly and in the light of paragraph 4 above, while maintaining our commitments in the TRIPS Agreement, we recognize that these flexibilities include: ...

b. Each Member has the right to grant compulsory licences and the freedom to determine the grounds upon which such licences are granted.

Developing countries have identified compulsory licensing as one of the key instruments that may limit the exclusive rights of the patent owner when needed to fulfill certain objectives of public policy, particularly in order to ensure the availability of alternative sources for the supply of medicines at lower prices48.

48 See, e.g., Velasquez and Boulet, 1999; Correa (2000a).

Sub-paragraph 5 (b) of the Doha Declaration deals with an issue central to the interests of developing countries. It simply states what is apparent: Article 31 sets forth a number of conditions for the granting of compulsory licences (case-by-case determination; prior negotiation, in certain cases, with the patent owner; remuneration, etc.), but it does not limit the grounds on which such licences can be granted. Though Article 31 refers to some of the possible grounds (such as emergency and anti-competitive practices) for issuing compulsory licences, it leaves Members full freedom to stipulate other grounds, such as non-working, public health or public interest.

Though sub-paragraph 5 (b) does not add anything substantively to the understanding of TRIPS, the Doha Declaration specifically employs the expression “compulsory licence”, which is not found in the TRIPS Agreement itself49. The use of this terminology may help to create awareness, particularly among health ministries in developing countries and LDCs, about the possible utilization of compulsory licences to meet public health and other objectives50.

49 TRIPS Article 31 is entitled “[O]ther use without authorization of the right holder”.

50 Despite the fact that the governmental use for a non-commercial purpose of a patent is not mentioned in the commented paragraph, such mechanism can also be important to attain public health objectives.

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