Minutes - TRIPS Council - View details of the intervention/statement

H.E. Ambassador Dr Walter Werner
243.   Switzerland would like to thank the previous delegations for their gripping interventions and presentations. We welcome the opportunity to exchange experiences and views on how intellectual property has practically contributed to improving our lives – a topic which is broader than previous topics under the IP and innovation theme. It is not only directly relevant to all of us here in this building, but to all human beings. 244.   We believe that intellectual property serves as an important engine for fostering creativity, innovation, and technological progress for the benefit of society. The intellectual property system plays a major role in providing incentives to the development of solutions to current challenges and enriches lives thanks to more diverse literature and art. Since the early modern era, IP rights have contributed to technological and cultural advancement in the most diverse fields such as education, environmental protection, public health, food and agriculture, arts, and entertainment. Certain inventions have even dramatically changed the way we live or have helped improve our day-to-day lives. 245.   IP rights are an important tool. They are, however, not a panacea and need to be put into the wider context of the market economy and state policies. Switzerland tries to adopt a bottom-up approach to enable innovation to flourish. This means leaving competence at the lowest administrative level as long as possible. It is an established principle, for example, in the promotion of research and innovation: The researchers' own initiative is regarded as being crucial, besides the principles of competition, qualitative assessment criteria, and international cooperation. A free competitive environment is one of the main driving forces of innovation. In addition, overall favourable and innovative-friendly conditions depend on a reliable legal framework, including a system of adequate and enforceable IP protection. 246.   Let me illustrate, with a few case studies, how intellectual property protection, innovative and entrepreneurial spirit, international trade, and cooperation have contributed – and will contribute in the future – to finding innovative solutions and thereby have made, and will make, life easier. 247.   The first example dates back to 1929 when financial and economic crises shook the world. Due to the Wall Street Crash, Brazil ended up with a large surplus of coffee beans. The Brazilian Coffee Institute asked a Swiss company to find a solution for the surplus of coffee beans that were sitting unsold in warehouses in Brazil. After years of research, the Swiss chemist Dr Max Morgenthaler presented a winning formula which converted coffee beans into a soluble coffee powder, while preserving the true taste and aroma of coffee. It was the world's first instant, readily soluble coffee. The invention of this breakthrough beverage helped to find a way out of the enormous surplus of coffee beans in Brazil, while preserving the traditional form of coffee production. In addition, it made coffee consumption more popular worldwide, expanding the international market for coffee producers. The availability of patent protection for this new method of producing instant coffee served as an important incentive, since it enabled the company to recoup its investments in research and development. In addition, protecting the trademark of this innovative product contributed to making the company internationally known for its original food products and processes. 248.   Switzerland is convinced that the promotion and protection of intellectual property is an important element – among others – that contributes to technological progress for the benefit of humanity. Creative solutions prosper if inventors are able to commercialize their inventions in a predictable and stable legal environment. Protection of IP also encourages investors to provide the necessary funding for developing new products and technologies that increase our well-being. 249.   Intellectual property has also contributed, as is well-known, to the development of new innovative drugs and treatments that have helped to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being across the globe. IP plays a key role in providing the necessary funds to cover the expensive undertaking of developing new medicines. In the last decades, significant progress has been made in increasing life expectancy as well as eradicating, curing, and improving the treatment of a wide range of diseases. 250.   One example of a product, the development of which was made possible by IP and an innovation-friendly ecosystem, is Ceftriaxone. Ceftriaxone is an antibiotic which is suitable for treating organisms that tend to be resistant to many other antibiotics. It is a product which has made – and still is making – a great impact. In 1979, a Swiss pharmaceutical company discovered and filed for patent protection of Ceftriaxone worldwide. The antibiotic is used in the treatment of a number of bacterial infection diseases, such as sepsis (i.e. blood poisoning), meningitis and pneumonia. It has been available as a low-cost generic by many suppliers and has featured on the World Health Organization (WHO) model list of essential medicines for many years. This innovative antibiotic has helped to save countless human lives and continues to do so. 251.   The development of new drugs and treatments is and will be instrumental in improving lives. It is also a very expensive undertaking. Few other industries are as dependent on effective patent and test data protection as the innovation-driven pharmaceutical industry. They need to recoup their massive investments in R&D costs and be able to reinvest in new and better products. By doing so, they not only supply the pipeline of innovative medicines, but in the medium term, also the pipeline of generics, as these innovative products may be copied by any manufacturer after their patent term has expired. 252.   We would like to look at a last example of an interaction between innovative spirit and IP improving lives – and that is Solar Impulse, a completely solar-powered plane. In 2016, it completed the first-ever round-the-world flight without a single drop of jet fuel. It was built to carry the message that the world needs to find new ways of improving the quality of human life, which includes clean technologies and renewable forms of energy production. This pioneering project was successful due to the joint efforts of individuals and many partners from the private and public sector, including the Swiss government. In this project, numerous companies and institutions from several countries contributed with their expertise and high-tech materials. It took 12 years of research and development to create an aircraft powered by dozens of environmental products and processes. 253.   The technologies developed are now opening up new "markets and offering an opportunity for economic development, job creation and profit." The Swiss solar plane served as a laboratory and platform for clean technology. Project partners invested money and expertise. In return, they benefited not only from the project's media impact but also from IP, such as patents for technology developed for building the aircraft. As was explained in a related article in the WIPO Magazine, the Solar Impulse team entered into a partnership with Bayer MaterialScience, which offered access to "innovative material solutions" that reduce energy consumption. Another partner, the Swiss energy company SIG, helped "optimize the energy chain and push the storage capacity of the batteries to their maximum". The project partners relied on IP protection to make their research viable, and help them administer the rights in their innovations within their partnership and with external partners. The project team itself also applied for some IP rights, despite the fact that the project itself was not commercially oriented. 254.   The project fulfilled its ambition: "to contribute to the world of exploration and innovation, to the cause of renewable energies." It wanted "to demonstrate the importance of the new technologies". Beyond its contribution to the cause of renewable energies and their importance for mankind, the technology developed for the solar impulse aircraft may be used and further developed for other purposes. Take the lighter-weight and more efficient batteries that were essential for the aircraft. They can now just as well be used in cars. 255.   This endeavour would not have been possible if the companies involved did not have the assurance that all of their investment in physical and human capital and knowledge, and research and development, would be protected and rewarded, including through the protection of intellectual property. 256.   In conclusion, we note that intellectual property has widely contributed to the improvement of lives around the globe. We encourage Member States to continue providing the necessary framework and make all IP instruments available to encourage financing and other investments in innovative solutions – solutions that improve lives. The Swiss delegation is looking forward to continuing constructively engaging in this information sharing-session.
33.   The Chair said the TRIPS Council had regularly conducted annual reviews of technical cooperation and capacity building activities at its end of the year meeting, based on reports submitted by developed country Members, international organizations and the WTO Secretariat. In line with past practice, he suggested the following approach:
a. The next review should take place at the meeting of the TRIPS Council, scheduled for 89 November 2018;

b. Developed country Members were invited to submit information on their activities, pursuant to Article 67 of the TRIPS Agreement. Other Members who also engage in technical cooperation were, of course, encouraged to share information if they so wished;

c. Intergovernmental organizations with observer status in the TRIPS Council, as well as the WTO Secretariat, were invited to report on their relevant activities; and

d. The deadline to submit written information would be set on 12 October 2018, i.e. four weeks prior to the TRIPS Council meeting, in order to allow timely circulation before the meeting.
34.   The Council so agreed.
IP/C/M/89, IP/C/M/89/Add.1