WTO Secretariat Report to the TRIPS Council
443. Document IP/C/R/TC/WTO-OMC/1 contains a full report on the technical assistance activities in the area of TRIPS that we undertook between 1 October 2019 and 30 September 2020.
444. The structure of the report is to give a general overview of the broad trends and then in an annex, to give a specific list of activities delivered. There is a review of the overall trends, the resources available for technical cooperation and the specifics activities as I mentioned as well as contributions to broader technical assistance activities that have TRIPS component. Coordination and cooperation with other intergovernmental organizations and other public stakeholders are of course important. We emphasize these partnerships and cooperation are integral to our work and are increasingly important and valuable. The annex to the report provides detailed information on a number of activities undertaken by the Secretariat during the reporting period.
445. The technical cooperation activities, undertaken by the Secretariat under the aegis of TRIPS, have the objective of assisting Members and Observers to meet their developmental and other domestic policy objectives within the framework of the IP system established by the TRIPS Agreement, and to respond directly to the needs and priorities articulated by the Members concerned. A key feature is that activities are driven by demand from developing country and least developed countries partners, as well as from governments in the process of acceding to the WTO. Members and Observers do continue to receive tailored assistance, which includes their participation in the transparency work of this Council, which has been stepped up in line with the opportunities provided by the e-TRIPS Submission System and the e-TRIPS Gateway, which we hope assist Members to track and update notifications and to make use of the enormous trove of information that has been collected over the past 25 years. The e-TRIPS Gateway is expressly labelled a "beta" gateway, which means that it is still under development. We are very much reliant on Members to provide feedback and guidance on how e-TRIPS can be further elaborated and tailored so that as practical delegates and as practical capital-based officials, we provide you with an information service that meets your practical needs.
446. A particular priority in recent months has been responding to the needs of Members in relation to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Overall, in presenting the report, we stress the commitment of the Secretariat to continue to respond to needs and priorities of Members, including more tailored support for Members or groups of Members and subject to their guidance. We are grateful for guidance from Members regarding past activities, and aim to continue to shape and update technical assistance to meet practical needs and priorities.
447. Regarding a few overarching activities in the reporting period that may be of general interest to Members, in July 2020, the WHO, WIPO and WTO Secretariats launched the second edition of the Trilateral Study, "Promoting Access to Medical Technologies and Innovation: Intersections between public health, intellectual property and trade"(). This publication is a close collaboration with our valued trilateral partners which catalyses and enables ever more productive, up to date and practically focused technical assistance for the benefit of Members. We report on it under the technical assistance agenda item because it is indeed a critical part of the transparency and the substance of our technical assistance work in this area of public health, and in particular in our cooperation with key partners. From that point of view, we record our deep appreciation to our colleagues in these cooperating organizations and register our respect for their distinctive expertise and professionalism, which give an enormous impact to our work together.
448. As with the previous edition, this updated edition of the trilateral study is made available to provide a transparent, holistic and broadbased platform for technical assistance in this high priority area. The updated edition provides an empirical foundation for policy debate and for informed decision making at a critical time for global health. A COVID-19 section at the very start of the publication provides a factual overview of the developments and measures taken to address the COVID-19 pandemic, which began after the work on the second edition of the study had been completed and was going through formal clearance when this pandemic hit us, and so this was prepared as a separate extract as well, which is also available.
449. A further general resource is the revised guide to the TRIPS Agreement. We have recently updated the general, factual and descriptive guide to the TRIPS Agreement, available on the Website () to take account of recent developments. The same updates will be reflected also in a revised edition of the standard Secretariat Handbook on the TRIPS Agreement – familiar to many delegates in its first edition as the 'green book' – and this will be published shortly. As a foundational resource for all TRIPS-related technical cooperation activities, this updated edition includes material on current TRIPS issues, both in this Council and in other multilateral policy processes elsewhere, as well as a completely reworked and updated guide to all of the TRIPS transparency mechanisms in particular taking accounts of the launch of e-TRIPS and the various improvements to the transparency mechanism that have been implemented recently.
450. Finally, I would like to draw your attention to the Colloquium Papers. During the reporting period, the WIPO and the WTO Secretariats jointly published the ninth and tenth editions of the WIPO-WTO Colloquium Papers, a series of peer-reviewed academic papers resulting from the WIPOWTO Colloquium for IP researchers and teachers. This peer-reviewed publication provides a uniquely representative and diverse showcase for emerging IP scholarship from across the globe. It aims to stimulate analysis and debate on current IP issues particularly of interest to developing countries. It offers an avenue for the dissemination of a broader and more geographically diverse and representative range of scholarship than is common in much of the academic literature on IP law and policy. A redesigned platform, very recently organized, provides much easier access to ten years of editions of the journal. This showcases IP research from over 130 scholars from 64 countries across the globe, so we see that this is a very valuable supplementary resource for our capacity building and outreach work.
451. Finally, concerning recent activities in the public health area, as has been touched on several times under the previous agenda items, since the entry into force of the Protocol Amending the TRIPS Agreement, activities have increasingly focused on implementing the Protocol at the domestic level and supporting the utilization of the Special Compulsory Licensing System as an effective procurement tool to ensure access to affordable medicines in line with the continuing guidance given by Members in this Council. As the focus of this work turns more to addressing practical questions in implementing the system, more tailored and focused technical assistance is available to Members on request, and we will engage with Members to ensure that technical assistance is ever more directed to their practical needs, including if required in dealing with any practical constraints that Members encountered with the System as it is currently configured. A particular feature of our technical assistance in general has been to support individual Members in making and tracking their notifications and we can therefore similarly provide specific support in relation to notifications under this System, given also that this is an area of obvious priority especially at the present time.
452. Marking ten years of cooperation among trilateral partners, the WTO, WHO and WIPO Secretariats, in October 2019 the WTO hosted a technical symposium on 'Cutting-Edge Health Technologies: Opportunities and Challenges'. Of course, this was before the outbreak of the pandemic, so the opportunities and challenges were somehow more broadly based. This symposium discussed how scientific progress and advances in health technologies have contributed to unprecedented improvements in health outcomes. Equally, we conducted the 15th WTO Trade and Public Health Workshop, organized in close collaboration with the Secretariats of the WHO and the WIPO, in November 2019. The Workshop covered various policy dimensions with an effect on public health and how these relate to provisions of WTO agreements alongside other relevant agreements and treaties. I would mention also that while our key partners in the field of public health are indeed our trilateral partners, we benefit enormously from partnership with other multilateral organizations and many other stakeholders in civil society and in various areas of industry. And finally, as has been mentioned as well, in February 2020, the second Workshop on the Implementation of Article 66.2 was convened.
453. As I mentioned the work in recent months has focused naturally in responding to the COVID19 challenges. There is COVID-19 section in the second edition of the Trilateral Study, "Promoting Access to Medical Technologies and Innovation: Intersections between public health, intellectual property and trade". This is also of course available on the websites of our trilateral partners. In addition, a wide range of COVID-19-related materials more broadly under aegis of work of WTO is available at . This covers a wide range of material including compilations of COVID-19-related measures undertaken by Members, as well as a wide range of other material, including series of information notes, such as the note on the TRIPS Agreement and COVID-19. There are materials or activities in the pipeline, including online version of the WTO Trade and Health Workshop, a further webpage on TRIPS and COVID-19, as well as series of technical assistance activities increasingly tailored to Members' demand concerning COVID-19 measures.
454. The first of these is a workshop which will take place on 21 October; flyers advertising this activity are available outside the room. We would certainly encourage delegates, including capitalbased officials, to participate in that. A key point there is that the workshop will be quite brief; we are covering a lot of ground in this workshop and we are thankfully assisted with the excellent cooperation of our colleagues in the WHO and WIPO Secretariats as well as in other WTO divisions dealing with substantive matters. Thus, it can only touch on the range of interlocking issues that Members do need to consider, hence the title: An integrated health trade and IP approach to address the pandemic. It can therefore only survey the landscape. It is certainly not intended to be a definitive or complete guide to policy issues in this area. Why I say this is because we are very reliant on Members to take an active part in this workshop; we hope to use it as a basis for ever more tailored and responsive technical assistance in this area, and as a chance to gauge and learn of Members' priority needs and requirements in this critical field.
455. My closing remarks therefore are to encourage Members to follow that workshop and if it is not possible, to contact us and consult with us on priority needs in this critical area. Finally, WTO resources will continue the analytical work under way, such as WTO staff working papers. We would like to work very closely with Members to ensure that technical assistance and also the empirical foundation of that work is ever more strengthened at a very critical time for the international community and for individual Members.