[A2k] TWN Statement at WIPO PCDA meeting
Tue Feb 21 11:38:01 2006
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TWN STATEMENT AT THE WIPO PCDA MEETING
21 January 2006
Let me start with a quote from Sir Isaac Newton. He said "If I have seen
further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants."
The quote reveals the need to protect the integrity of the public domain as
it is this rich public domain that facilitates further innovative ideas.
Listening to the debates, it is clear that on principle all delegations
believe in safeguarding the integrity of the public domain.
Protection of the public domain is an issue that requires immediate
attention because what is at stake is the problem of "ACCESS" be it to
knowledge, technology information, medicines etc. For developing countries
this ACCESS is crucial to achieve public policy objectives and to use tools
that are necessary for their developmental needs.
Today we see more and more rights being created to cover material that is in
the public domain or that should have fallen in the public domain.
The extension of rights of the IP holders are particularly prominent in the
numerous bilateral free trade agreements that are being signed between the
developed and developing countries.
For example, several of the bilateral trade agreements are incorporating the
idea of "evergeening" patents. This concept for example allows patents to be
granted on "new uses" of known substances although these "new use" patents
can in no way be considered to be rewards for new invention, as nothing new
has been invented. But by granting patents on new uses of known substances,
it allows patent protection to be greatly extended - for each new
therapeutic use of a known compound that is discovered, allowing a company
yet another 20 year monopoly.
Another example an obligation that is also frequently found in bilateral
trade agreements that is the obligation to extend the term of patent
protection (beyond the current 20 year patent term) to compensate for
unreasonable delays by patent offices in granting patents or by the drug
registration authority is granting marketing approval.
In the context of access to medicines, these TRIPS plus obligations have
devastating impacts, in particular restricting access to affordable good
quality generic versions of patented pharmaceutical products.
It is evident that such obligations reduce the public domain since materials
that should be in the public domain are now being further protected by
extending the rights of the IP holders.
I have only highlighted 2 provisions pertaining patents and explained how
they affect the public domain. But there are other provisions on patents,
copyright, technological protection measures that undermine the public
domain and as a consequence create barriers to ACCESS to tools such as
knowledge and technology that are necessary for development.
We believe that urgent and immediate action to protect the public domain and
to limit the extension of rights of the IP holders should be undertaken. The
protection or safeguarding of the contents of the public domain should also
be a guiding principle in all norm setting exercises taken in future in
Finally we would like to state our support in principle for the
ideas/proposals that Chile has put forward in its paper and in its
presentation. We think that these are proposals that require further
elaboration and examination.
I will end with a quote from Thomas Jefferson who said:
"He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without
lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without
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