Monday, 14 June 2021

The G7 Communique and IP

Author Andy F Licence CC BY-SA 3.0 Source Wikimedia Commons

Jane Lambert

Although the meeting of the heads of government of the Group of Seven ("G7") industrial nations at Carbis Bay may be remembered for the wrong reasons such as the Foreign Secretary's outburst after the French President gently tried to point out that the customs arrangements that apply to Northern Ireland are different from those in Great Britain which is not the case in France it has drawn the world's press and broadcasters to Cornwall.  That ought to benefit the duchy's tourist industry once the public health emergency is over.

It appears that a lot of work was done in preparation for the meeting and agreement was recorded on a wide range of issues in the Carbis Bay G7 Summit Communiqué.  The document covers the following topics:
  • Health (paras 6 to 18)
  • Economic Recovery and Jobs (paras 19 to 26)
  • Free and Fair Trade (paras 27 to 30)
  • Future Frontiers (paras 31 to 36)
  • Climate and Environment (paras 37 to 43)
  • Gender Equality (paras 44 to 47)
  • Global Responsibility and International Action (paras 48 to 69).
The leaders said that they had revitalized their G7 partnership in Cornwall. They looked forward to working with others and each other at the G20 Summit, COP26, and CBD15 and the UN General Assembly.

In view of the announcement by the US Trade Representative of the US government's intention to enter text-based negotiations on the possible relaxation of intellectual property protection for COVID-19 vaccines on 5 May 2021 which I mentioned in The Patent Waiver Debate in NIPC Law on 8 May 2021, it seemed likely that there would be a statement on the issue in the communiqué.  

The issue was considered in para 12.  The heads of government committed "to an end-to-end approach to boost supply of COVID-19 tools, including vaccines, raw materials, tests, therapeutics, and personal protective equipment (PPE), through more production in more places to sustain a global supply network for this pandemic and the next" based on the principles of open trade and transparency, including through terminating unnecessary trade-restrictive measures and supporting open, diversified, secure and resilient supply chains. It will be backed up by a practical and pragmatic approach to breaking down bottlenecks that are holding back the efficient use of current production capacity, as well as promoting partnerships to increase capacity further.

Rather than amendingTRIPS and national patent laws. the leaders seemed to prefer voluntary licensing and technical transfer:
"Emphasising the need for equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, we will support manufacturing in low income countries and, noting the importance of intellectual property in this regard, we will engage constructively with discussions at the WTO on the role of intellectual property, including by working consistently within the TRIPS agreement and the 2001 Doha Declaration on the TRIPS agreement and Public Health. We note the positive impact that voluntary licensing and technology transfer on mutually agreed terms have already made to increasing global supply. We note the positive impact that voluntary licensing and technology transfer on mutually agreed terms have already made to increasing global supply. We will explore all options to ensure affordable and accessible COVID-19 tools for the poorest countries, including non-profit production, tiered and transparent pricing, and sharing by manufacturers of a proportion of production with COVAX, noting the previous precedent of the 10 per cent target in relation to influenza."
In other areas such as free trade, the leaders appeared to support a strengthening of IP protection.  For example, in the context of reforming the World Trade Organization at para 30, they called for modernization of the global trade rulebook so that it,,,,, strengthens rules to protect against unfair practices, such as forced technology transfer" and "intellectual property theft......"

Commjuniqués from heads of government meetings are not biding but they are statements of intent. Anyone wishing to discuss this article or any of the topics mentioned in it may call me on +44 (0)20 7404 5252 during office hours or send me a message through my contact form.

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