Monday, December 17, 2012

TRIPS, Compulsory Licensing and Domestic Policy Space

Attended a seminar on "Compulsory Licensing and Developing Countries" organized by the Centre for WTO studies recently. Very enlightened discussion on how a recent case of the use of the Compulsory Licensing provision is, inter alia, in consonance with the TRIPS Agreement.

Kudos to Shamnad Basheer (an authority on IP law and the founder of the hugely popular blog SpicyIP), Yogesh Pai (the force behind Trade, Law and Development Journal) and Madhukar Sinha for their brilliant presentation and interventions. It was interesting for me to see the possibility of yet another WTO provision being used as a domestic policy tool by a developing country within the framework of international trade rules to further one's national interest. I have often argued in this blog that critics of globalization tend to suggest that domestic policy space is totally curtailed in the context of the WTO, especially in the context of TRIPS. Though I am not an expert on patents and TRIPS, the seminar brought to light the fact that the use of Compulsory Licencing as per Indian Law can be reconciled with TRIPS provisions. Hence, a creative and flexible interpretation (or some would argue a literal interpretation) of Article 31 of TRIPS does provide that policy space.

This is another example that one must explore possibilities of using the existing multilateral legal framework to further one's national interest. The recognition that international economic law provides that flexibility is in itself a step forward.

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