At its meeting of 9 June 2021, the Council for TRIPS agreed to invite intergovernmental organization observers to the Council to update the information on their technical and financial cooperation programmes relating to the implementation of the TRIPS Agreement.
This document reports on the technical cooperation activities concerning TRIPS that were undertaken between 1 October 2020 and 30 September 2021 by the Secretariat of the World Trade Organization (WTO). It covers activities that specifically relate to intellectual property (IP) and the Agreement on Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS Agreement), as well as contributions to other activities of a broader character, which have a significant IP or TRIPS component. It follows the previous report to the Council for TRIPS, contained in document IP/C/R/TC/WTO-OMC/1, dated 8 October 2020. This cover note provides a general overview. More information on each activity is provided in Annex I.
MAIN ORIENTATIONS, TRENDS AND DEVELOPMENTS
1. 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, competition policy 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.
2. 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 country and least developed country Members, as well as from governments preparing to accede to the WTO.
3. Complementarity and cooperation with other intergovernmental organizations (IGOs) continues to be ensured in Secretariat technical assistance activities. In the spirit of an integrated approach to address the COVID-19 pandemic, the Directors-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the WTO agreed to enhance their support to Members battling COVID-19 through a number of initiatives, discussed in further detail in paragraph 21 below. One such initiative is a series of workshops to augment the flow of information on the pandemic. The first workshop in the series entitled Innovation in, and Access to, COVID-19 Technologies: Intellectual property licensing, technology transfer, and sharing of know-how and clinical trial information was held in September 2021. It complemented earlier capacity building activities in the reporting period, organized in close collaboration with the WHO and WIPO Secretariats, including the Trade and Public Health Virtual Course with a Special Focus on the COVID-19 Pandemic; a WTO Health, IP and Trade Virtual Sub-Regional Workshop for Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Member States; and a WTO Technical Workshop: An Integrated Health, Trade and IP Approach to Address the COVID-19 Pandemic. These activities exemplify this collaborative and integrated approach, which is also evident in growing demand for cross-cutting capacity building in this area at the regional and national levels.
4. Among the more recent developments, through the Trade and Public Health Virtual Course, the WTO delivered the first virtual, multidisciplinary capacity building programme for government officials on trade and public health with a special focus on the COVID-19 pandemic. As with the previous face-to-face workshops, the five-week course was delivered in close collaboration with the secretariats of the WHO and the WIPO. It followed 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, including specific information on responses to the pandemic. Further, in 2021, to foster the dialogue between developed and least-developed country (LDCs) Members and to promote the use of transparency mechanisms, the Secretariat organized, in close collaboration with institutional partners, a virtual workshop on incentives for technology transfer to LDCs under Article 66.2 the TRIPS Agreement. The workshop focused on four specific fields of technology transfer critical for sustainable development, namely health, agriculture, the environment and information and communications technology.
5. 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, standards, the digital economy, and the links between trade and health. In turn, this requires closer collaboration amongst different divisions in the Secretariat. 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.
6. Throughout the period under review, TRIPS-related technical assistance continued to include training on TRIPS-related transparency mechanisms and monitoring. Following the February 2019 launch of the e-TRIPS Submission System, an online tool for WTO Members to submit notifications, review materials and reports related to the TRIPS Agreement, the Secretariat has provided on-demand training sessions regarding TRIPS transparency mechanisms and how to use the e-TRIPS Submission System.
7. In order to effectively respond to Members' and observers' demand for further tailored technical assistance, in the context of a number of activities, the Secretariat continued to survey participants to gain insight on priority needs for technical capacity building. Survey results in turn helped shape the content, design and delivery of technical assistance activities.
8. 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 national capitals and in regional centres.
TECHNICAL COOPERATION RESOURCES
9. Throughout the reporting period, the WTO produced an array of capacity building materials. For instance, video recordings of webinars to commemorate 25 years of the TRIPS Agreement explored IP-related economic and statistical issues, cross-cutting topics such as biotechnology and biodiversity, as well as emerging areas including trade in knowledge and digital products within the international IP system and the TRIPS Agreement. A new information resource on the WTO website was also launched on TRIPS, the intellectual property system and COVID-19. Furthermore, within the context of the Trade and Public Health Virtual Course with a Special Focus on the COVID-19 Pandemic in 2021, the Secretariat made available background material and videos of the four livestreamed webinars.
10. The Secretariat published a WTO Staff Research Paper 'Patent-related actions taken in WTO members in response to the COVID-19 pandemic', which provides an overview of the patent landscape of medical treatments and technologies related to COVID-19, and of the patent status of two investigational medical treatments: remdesivir and lopinavir/ritonavir. It also presents various patent-related actions taken by legislators, policymakers, industry sectors and civil society organizations in WTO Members since the outbreak. Furthermore, it elaborates on patent-related policy options provided by the TRIPS Agreement, and WTO Members' national implementation and utilization of these options in their response to the COVID-19 pandemic
11. In September 2021, the WTO, WHO and WIPO launched an updated version of the Executive Distance Learning Course on Access to Medical Technologies and Innovation. This self-study distance learning course, a key element of the trilateral cooperation among the WTO, WHO and WIPO, is based on the above-mentioned second edition of the WHO-WIPO-WTO Trilateral Study. The course addresses the interplay of public health, IP and international trade, and is aimed at technical professionals and health, trade or IP policymakers. The WTO, WHO and WIPO Secretariats also concluded an update of 'An Integrated Health, Trade and Intellectual Property Approach to Respond to the COVID-19 Pandemic', which maps the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic in relation to the integrated health, trade and IP policy framework set out in the second edition of the WHO-WIPO-WTO Trilateral Study. In addition, the Secretariats of the WTO and WIPO launched a book on competition policy and IP in today's global economy, which was established to provide an updated platform for technical assistance in this area in response to continuing demand. For instance, 108 officials from 41 Members and observers took part in a WTO e-Seminar on Competition Policy, Trade and Development in July 2021 which enhanced understanding of the complementarities of competition and trade policies and their combined use in support of economic development, with particular reference to the WTO covered agreements, including the TRIPS Agreement.
12. 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.
13. During the reporting period the Secretariat continued to create new and refine existing capacity building materials, including case studies, questionnaires, video recordings and presentations.
TRIPS-RELATED SEMINARS, WORKSHOPS, TRAINING COURSES AND OTHER TECHNICAL COOPERATION ACTIVITIES
14. In commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the TRIPS Agreement, and to illustrate the evolution and diversity of the Agreement's implementation into domestic law and policy in order to achieve public policy goals, the Secretariat held a series of virtual activities on various thematic issues which commenced in November 2020. The series comprised five webinars focused on the economics of IP and trade‑related perspectives; TRIPS and competition; TRIPS and trade in knowledge; the TRIPS Agreement, biotechnology and biodiversity; and a reflection on the legal and institutional development and impact of the TRIPS Agreement over 25 years.
15. 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. In October 2020, the virtual WTO Technical Workshop: An Integrated Health, Trade and IP Approach to Address the COVID-19 Pandemic focused on health systems, IP regimes and trade policy settings. The five-week long WTO Trade and Public Health Virtual Course with a Special Focus on the COVID-19 Pandemic in May-June 2021, including four live webinars as an integral component, incorporated over 35 expert trainers from international organizations, government, civil society, academia and the private sector. The four live webinars explored the dissemination of health technologies, perspectives on access to medical technologies, delivering medical technologies and vaccines to end users and regulatory cooperation during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Virtual Course addressed a range of areas, including public health, IP, innovation and access to health technologies, international trade and regulatory issues.
16. Since 2018, with the participation of capital-based experts from LDCs, the Secretariat has organised an annual workshop on the implementation of Article 66.2: incentive for technology transfer to LDCs. The Secretariat has made continuous efforts to improve the value and impact of this annual dialogue between LDC Members and developed country Members. In 2021, under the guidance of LDC Members, for the first time, the Workshop was devoted to four specific fields of technology transfer critical for sustainable development, yet are disseminated in different ways; namely, the fields of health, agriculture, environment and information and communication technology. Also for the first time, the Secretariat developed survey questionnaires on LDC needs and priorities for technology transfer with a view to assisting Members with their understanding of current areas of priority for technological development in LDCs, projects that are relevant to these areas of technology transfer and LDCs' experience with projects reported under Article 66.2. The Secretariat prepared a summary on 604 technology transfer programmes reported by nine developed country Members from 2018 to 2020 with a focus on the four above-mentioned fields of technologies. The summary gave detailed information on the main providing Members, the main LDC beneficiaries and the geographical distribution of these programmes. The detailed summary was also introduced to the Members in the workshop.
17. The Secretariat continued to deliver technical assistance at the national and sub-regional level during the reporting period. A TRIPS National Workshop for Uzbekistan in Collaboration with the International Trade Centre (ITC), organized close coordination with the WIPO Secretariat, responded to a request from Uzbekistan in relation to its accession process; the virtual workshop discussed an overview of TRIPS obligations and flexibilities with a focus on TRIPS Agreement enforcement standards. A virtual training on an Introduction to Intellectual Property and the TRIPS Agreement for Curaçao was held at Curaçao's request in relation to its accession process. At the sub-regional level, the WTO Health, IP and Trade Virtual Sub-Regional Workshop for ECOWAS Member States was also delivered during the reporting period. The workshop covered the public health context in the region, the role of the IP system and trade-related policies and measures.
18. Since the February 2019 launch of the e-TRIPS Submission System, an online tool for WTO Members to submit notifications, review materials and reports related to the TRIPS Agreement, the WTO has held both informal and ad hoc training sessions at Members' request.
WTO TRADE-RELATED TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE WITH A TRIPS COMPONENT
19. 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 three WTO Regional Trade Policy Courses held during the reporting period: for Caribbean Members and observers, Arab and Middle Eastern Members and observers and English-Speaking African Members and observers. Additional WTO trade-related technical assistance activities with a significant TRIPS component included the WTO Virtual Executive Trade Course, induction for WTO internship and trainee programmes, Virtual Introductory Trade Policy Course for LDCs and live WTO e-Learning sessions.
20. WTO eLearning courses are the first step in the Progressive Learning Strategy that has been implemented by the WTO. Currently, the WTO offers four courses related to TRIPS on its eLearning platform: Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, as well as a Short Trip through TRIPS, Copyright in the WTO and Patents in the WTO. They were developed using modern pedagogical approaches and using instructional design methodologies. The learning material includes a wide variety of multimedia, interactive elements and exercises. From January to mid‑September, 324 participants had been accepted to take TRIPS eLearning courses. The WTO Secretariat also held a WTO eLearning presentation and live Q&A session focused on TRIPS during the reporting period.
21. 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 prioritised candidates having successfully completed a WTO TRIPS eLearning course.
COOPERATION WITH IGOs AND OTHER INSTITUTIONS
22. 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.
23. Trilateral Cooperation with the WIPO and WHO Secretariats, as referred to in paragraph 3 above, in the fields of public health, IP and trade continues to foster a better understanding of the linkages among these policy areas, and to enhance a mutually supportive implementation of relevant policies. In June 2021, the Directors-General of the WHO, the WIPO and the WTO agreed to build further on the long-standing commitment to WHO-WIPO-WTO Trilateral Cooperation that aims to support and assist all countries as they seek to assess and implement sustainable and integrated solutions to public health challenges. Within this existing cooperative framework, they agreed to enhance and focus the organizations' support in the context of the COVID-pandemic through two specific initiatives. First, to collaborate on the organization of practical, capacity-building workshops to enhance the flow of updated information on current developments in the pandemic and responses to achieve equitable access to COVID-19 health technologies. Second, to implement a joint platform for trilateral technical assistance to countries relating to their needs for COVID-19 medical technologies, providing a one-stop shop that will make available the full range of expertise on access, IP and trade matters provided by our organizations, and other partners, in a coordinated and systematic manner. The Directors-General stated that these initiatives will also be underpinned by joint efforts to collect and make accessible robust and inclusive data needed to guide an effective response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This will include a periodical update of the overview of COVID‑19-related developments that are mapped in a key resource for trilateral cooperation, the second edition of the WHO-WIPO-WTO Trilateral Study.
24. Work on public health matters regularly involves the participation of trilateral partners and other multilateral agencies in the context of the UN Interagency Task Force on Non-Communicable Diseases, for example.
25. As provided for in the 1995 Cooperation Agreement between WIPO and WTO, cooperation between the two organizations continues to be a key feature of TRIPS-related technical cooperation. The WIPO‑WTO Joint Initiative on Technical Cooperation for least developed countries, launched in June 2001, further strengthened this collaboration.
26. Partnerships with other key stakeholders have also been further developed, including the ITC, United Nations Technology Bank for LDCs, International Telecommunication Union (ITU), United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP), and regional organizations including the ECOWAS Commission, in addition to a wide range of civil society and private sector associations, as well as experts from academia (notably regionally based experts drawn from the growing group of alumni from the WTO-WIPO Colloquium series).
27. The peer-reviewed academic journal, the WIPO-WTO Colloquium Papers, building on the Colloquium series, has served to strengthen scholarship and dialogue on development and other policy issues across the developing world; in 2020 it was relaunched in more accessible online format giving ready access to and recognition of contributions by some 130 scholars from 64 countries across the globe.