1 MAIN ORIENTATIONS, TRENDS AND DEVELOPMENTS
Technical cooperation activities, implemented by the WTO Secretariat under the aegis of TRIPS, have the objective of assisting Members and observers to meet their developmental and other domestic policy objectives, such as innovation and industrial policy, health, regulatory aspects, and environmental protection, through the trade and IP regime, in line with their domestic circumstances and priority needs. These activities also have the objective of strengthening the capacity of Members to fully participate in the WTO's work on TRIPS matters and to make assessments on the issues under examination or review in the TRIPS Council.
During the review period, the Secretariat's technical cooperation activities in relation to the TRIPS Agreement continued to focus on assisting Members and observers to understand their rights and obligations under the Agreement. Additionally, Members and observers continued to receive tailored assistance regarding notifications and reviews of national legislation. Activities are essentially driven by demand from developing and least developed country (LDC) Members, as well as from governments preparing to accede to the WTO.
Complementarity and cooperation with other intergovernmental organizations (IGOs) continue to be ensured in technical assistance activities organized by the WTO Secretariat. One such initiative included the Trilateral Webinar entitled Technology Transfer from the Perspectives of Practitioners, jointly organized with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). This webinar took place on 27 June 2023 and was attended by over 200 participants. It brought together four teams of technology providers and their tech transfer recipients who shared practical experiences and best practices for facilitating technology transfer to developing economies to expand access to medical technologies. The experts shed light on the practical mechanisms in licensing agreements that facilitated the transfer of technology, know-how, and skills to enable local production of COVID-19 therapeutics, vaccines, and diagnostics. Presentations and a video-recording of the webinar are available here.
On 14 July 2023, the WHO, WIPO and the WTO launched the second update of the extract 'Integrated health, trade and IP approach to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic'. The second update traces developments up until 17 May 2023. It provides an overview of the challenges encountered during the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the responses and initiatives taken to deal with the pandemic. Topics covered include the impact of COVID-19 on health systems and responses at the global level, policy challenges, meeting the demand for health technologies and medical services, international trade, intellectual property aspects, international initiatives to support research and development and equitable access, regulatory responses, transparency and mapping the way forward.
The update responds to the agreement by the Directors General of WHO, WIPO and the WTO to intensify cooperation in support of global access to medical technologies to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic. Building on the trilateral cooperation and finding value in rolling out joint technical cooperation activities, the WHO, WIPO and WTO Secretariats manage the WHO-WIPO-WTO COVID-19 Technical Assistance Platform. The Platform provides a one-stop shop that makes available the full range of expertise of the three organizations, and other partners, regarding the interface of public health, IP and trade matters in a coordinated manner.
Members and Observers have identified a wide range of challenges and interests related to IP and the TRIPS Agreement. Accordingly, technical cooperation activities have become increasingly more tailored to the specific needs of a Member or Observer, or region. The Secretariat has in response evolved an ever more holistic approach, recognizing the situation of the TRIPS Agreement and policy choices within the TRIPS framework as integral to the broader policy context, and calling on a wider range of expertise. Moreover, technical assistance addresses the practical needs of policymakers to understand the interface between the TRIPS Agreement and other WTO Agreements, such as the Agreement on Agriculture, Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) and Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS), as well as with broader system-wide issues such as technology transfer, the environment, climate change, standards, the digital economy, and the links between trade and health. The content delivered during thematic and multidisciplinary activities which took place during the reporting period – and the strong positive feedback received from participants, as well as the continuing high level of demand – confirm the successful implementation of this interdisciplinary approach. Members and Observers wishing to learn more about TRIPS-related technical assistance are requested to contact Ms Roshan Khan (Roshan.Khan@wto.org; +41227396153), Legal Analyst and Technical Assistance Officer, Intellectual Property, Government and Competition Policy Division, to discuss potential avenues of support and be-spoke programmes.
2 TRIPS-RELATED SEMINARS, WORKSHOPS, TRAINING COURSES AND OTHER TECHNICAL COOPERATION ACTIVITIES
In response to the continuing demand for thematic and interdisciplinary technical assistance, the Secretariat designed and delivered in close coordination with partners a number of global virtual activities focused on public health, IP and trade policy during the reporting period. The WHO, WIPO, WTO Webinar on Technology Transfer from the Perspective of Practitioners, was the fourth in a series of WHO- WIPO-WTO trilateral workshops to augment the flow of information on technology transfer and related licensing arrangements.
In March 2023, to foster dialogue between developed and LDC Members and to promote the use of transparency mechanisms, the Secretariat organized, in close collaboration with institutional partners, a two-day workshop on incentives for technology transfer to LDCs under Article 66.2 of the TRIPS Agreement. In 2023, the Workshop brought together thirty government officials from 18 LDCs who shared best practice on strengthening the technology transfer provision under the TRIPS Agreement. The workshop focused on fields of technology transfer critical for sustainable development, namely public health, agriculture and the environment. The Secretariat has made continuous efforts to improve the value and impact of this annual dialogue between LDC Members and developed country Members. The Workshop was guided by a WTO survey on LDCs' needs and priorities for technology transfer, as well as a summary of developed country Members' annual reports (2022) on actions taken or planned in pursuance of their commitments under Article 66.2 of the TRIPS Agreement. It also sought to improve coordination between LDCs and their cooperation partners in support of technology transfer projects addressing development needs, building on related work in several WTO bodies and in other international organizations. More information on the two-day workshop is available here.
The Secretariat continued to deliver technical assistance at the national and sub-regional level during the reporting period. For example, at the national level, a weeklong virtual workshop was organized for Guatemala on TRIPS and related public health issues. At the sub-regional level, a TRIPS module also featured in a Short Virtual Course on Trade Policy for Member Countries of the Latin American Integration Association (ALADI). The Secretariat was also invited to deliver TRIPS-related sessions in study programmes, training courses, seminars and workshops that were convened by a range of partners based in Geneva, in capitals and in regional centres.
Engagement with academics and future IP practitioners continue to be a hallmark of TRIPS- related technical assistance activities. After a three-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the first in-person edition of the Intellectual Property Researchers Europe (IPRE) Conference was held at WIPO and the WTO Headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland on 29 and 30 June 2023. It was immediately followed by an academic symposium on the TRIPS Agreement, marking a culmination of a period of reflection on the lessons from the first 25 years of implementation of the Agreement. Background information, including a programme of the TRIPS at 25 Academic Symposium is available here. WIPO, WTO and the University of Geneva regularly team up to organize programmes such as the IPRE Conference to bring together IP academics, teachers and researchers to present their works-in-progress for feedback, and network among peers and policymakers. Participants benefit from the unique opportunity to discuss IP topics under consideration at the policy level with leading experts from WIPO and WTO. Similarly, the WTO partnered with WIPO and the Nanyang Technological University to convene the Fifth IP and Innovation Researchers of Asia Network Conference, which was held both in person in Singapore and as online event in March 2023. Notably, the WTO Secretariat provided extensive support for the John H. Jackson Moot Court Competition which in 2023 dealt with current TRIPS issues. More information on the Competition is available here.
3 e-TRIPS SUBMISSION SYSTEM: SUPPORTING TRANSPARENCY AND INFORMATION SHARING
The e-TRIPS Submission System, an optional online tool for WTO Members to submit notifications, review materials and reports related to the TRIPS Agreement, and the e‑TRIPS Gateway, a database of the full range of TRIPS-related information managed by the Secretariat, continued to serve as key resources in technical cooperation activities involving TRIPS transparency mechanisms and monitoring, and the Secretariat actively supported a wide range of delegations and capital-based officials in making full use of these resources.
The Secretariat continued to provide on-demand training sessions regarding TRIPs transparency mechanisms and how to use the e-TRIPS Submission System. Hands on virtual information sessions were organized for Indonesia and Albania during the reporting period. Members who are interested in receiving both informal and ad hoc training sessions on how to submit notifications, review materials and reports related to the TRIPS Agreement, are encouraged to send an email to e-TRIPS@wto.org, to request training and walk through on the e-TRIPS Submission System.
4 WTO TRADE-RELATED TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE WITH A TRIPS COMPONENT
The WTO Institute for Training and Technical Cooperation (ITTC) organizes many activities that include a significant TRIPS component. The Secretariat provided a comprehensive module on the TRIPS Agreement as part of the two WTO Regional Trade Policy Courses held during the reporting period: for Latin American Members and Observers and Caribbean Members and observers. Additional WTO trade-related technical assistance activities with a significant TRIPS component included the Introductory Trade Policy Course for LDCs, the in-person Advanced Trade Policy Course, the introduction for WTO internship and trainee programmes, and the introduction for WTO Young Professionals Programme.
WTO eLearning courses are the first step in the Progressive Learning Strategy that has been implemented by the WTO. Currently, the WTO eLearning platforms has two micro courses related to IP: Why are copyrights and related rights protected? And why are Intellectual Property Rights Protected? In addition, a detailed course for specialists is available online entitled Trade-related aspects of Intellectual Property Rights. Also, the distance learning course on Promoting Access to Medical Technologies and Innovation - Intersections between public health, intellectual property and trade, organized by the WHO, WIPO and WTO Secretariats, has been updated to reflect the WTO's Pandemic Response adopted at the 12th Ministerial Conference in June 2022. It follows the approach developed in the 2nd Edition of the WHO-WIPO-WTO Trilateral Study, 'Promoting Access to Medical Technologies and Innovation: Intersections between Public Health, Intellectual Property and Trade', published in 2020.
WTO eLearning courses are organized in English, French and Spanish all year round. Participants have online access to the course material, background documents, interactive sessions (webinars, chat sessions and discussion forum) as well as pre-and post-tests. Successful participants in the eLearning courses are awarded a certificate. They are assisted throughout the course by a trainer and a helpdesk. In the invitations to workshops and more advanced technical assistance activities on the TRIPS Agreement, the Secretariat has prioritized candidates having successfully completed a WTO TRIPS eLearning course or the trilateral distance learning course.
5 COOPERATION WITH IGOs AND OTHER INSTITUTIONS
The Secretariat's technical cooperation in the area of TRIPS includes a wide range of coordination and cooperation with other IGOs, as well as other institutions. The regular two-week course on 'Topical Intellectual Property Issues', jointly organized with WIPO each year concluded on 31 March. The course was an opportunity for IP policymakers in government to deep dive on new and emerging issues that intersect with intellectual property and public policy. Over 20 IP officials from developing country members came together to share national perspectives on use of IP as a public policy tool in the areas of climate change, green technology, artificial intelligence and public health.
The 18th edition of the Colloquium for Intellectual Property teachers from developing countries and economies in transition, jointly hosted by WIPO and the WTO, was held in Geneva from 7 to 18 November 2022. The two-week colloquium brought together 23 IP scholars. The colloquium aimed to increase universities' ability to establish national expertise in intellectual property and, as a result, increase their capacity to offer policy support on ongoing WIPO and WTO discussions. The Colloquium included a wide range of IP policy and legal issues, including public health, economic and social development, biotechnology, traditional knowledge, technology transfer and IP enforcement.