Africa: 'People Before Patents' - Academics, Researchers and Teachers Support SA Call to Scrap Global Covid-19 Medicine Patents


A group of more than 40 South African academics, researchers and teachers have joined the international support for the South African and Indian governments' proposal that global intellectual property rights should not apply to Covid-19 medicines. In addition, this group argues these reforms must be applied to South Africa for it to be effective.

The laws governing intellectual property differ from country to country. The World Trade Organisation (WTO) introduced the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement in 1995 in order to have a basic global framework to protect and enforce these rights. This way, intellectual property could be traded on an equal footing and more easily across borders. Each country must honour this framework when dealing with the intellectual property rights of nationals from other WTO member countries.

Importantly, the agreement includes when these rights can be overridden in the name of enhancing economic and social welfare. This allows exporting countries to grant compulsory licences to generic suppliers in order to manufacture and export medicines to states that can't make their own. This can be done without getting the patent holder's consent. In a nutshell, governments can allow competitors to make a product without the consent of...

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