India and South Africa want the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to waive intellectual property rules to make it easier for developing countries to produce or import Covid-19 drugs, a letter to the WTO shows.
In their letter dated October 2 the two countries call on the global trade body to waive parts of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (Trips), which governs patents, trademarks, copyright and other intellectual property rules globally.
“As new diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines for Covid-19 are developed, there are significant concerns [over] how these will be made available promptly, in sufficient quantities and at [an] affordable price to meet global demand,” the letter posted on the Geneva-based WTO’s website says.
The two countries say that developing nations are disproportionately affected by the pandemic and that intellectual property rights, including patents, could be a barrier to the provision of affordable medicine.
The letter asks that the WTO’s Council for Trips recommends a waiver to the General Council, the WTO’s top decision-making body in Geneva, “as early as possible”.
It does not say how much support India and South Africa have from other countries.
A draft General Council decision text submitted with the letter says the waiver should last an as yet unspecified number of years and be reviewed annually.