Senior Research Associate in the School of Law, Professor Yousuf Vawda, presented a paper at the Global Forum on Intellectual Property, Access to Medicines and Innovation organised by the South Centre and the Max Planck Institute for Innovation and Competition in Munich, Germany during December 2019.
The forum brought together renowned academics and policy experts from around the globe, as well as policy makers and members of the judiciary from developing countries to find solutions to making medicines more affordable and accessible.
One of the key mechanisms to achieve this is for governments to grant a compulsory licence to enable competitors to enter the market.
Vawda’s paper on, Compulsory Licences and Government Use: Challenges and Opportunities, examined the background, origins and conceptual roots of such licences; limited use of this mechanism; and compared the situation in two southern African countries (Zimbabwe which has granted compulsory licenses, and South Africa that has not). It also identified key challenges and opportunities in adopting this policy option or a more flexible approach.
‘This was a productive and stimulating forum, with experts leading discussions on a range of options permissible under international law to mitigate the effects of patent monopolies, and enable access to medicines at affordable prices,’ said Vawda. ‘Such debates are important at a time when South Africa is in the process of drafting intellectual property legislation in line with its new IP policy focused on public health, a process in which UKZN-affiliated academics have made substantial inputs over the past few years.’
Other topics discussed at the forum included reflections on the diversity of patenting systems despite global harmonisation under the rules of the World Trade Organisation; the role of judges and the enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) through interdicts; new models for research and development of medicines that address the needs of the developing world; and the inclusion of IPRs in trade agreements and their impact on access to medicines.
The two-day conference was hailed as marking the beginning of an important partnership between the intergovernmental organisation, the South Centre and the Max Planck Institute, as well as collaboration among leading academics and policy makers.
Words: Lungile Ngubelanga