Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Time to rethink: patents and public health revisited

For the second time this month (and here is the first), Afro-IP has the pleasure of hosting a piece from guest blogger Caroline Ncube -- who increasingly needs no introduction. This post reviews an important meeting which Caroline recently attended. Her note runs as follows:
South Africa's IP Policy discussed at TAC and MSF's "Time to rethink our patent laws: A public health perspective" meeting  
Many IP enthusiasts have been eagerly awaiting details of South Africa's Draft IP Policy since it was announced at the last IP Indaba that the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) was embarking on an IP policy making process (reported here).  Mr MacDonald Netshitenzhe, Chief Director: Policy and Legislation, DTI, revealed the following details at a meeting convened by the Treatment Access Campaign (TAC) and Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) as part of their 'Fix the patent laws compaign'. 
1. There is currently a draft IP Policy which has been informed by 'targeted consultations' with lawyers, industry and sister government departments. 
2. A regulatory impact assessment (RIA) of the policy is being undertaken. 
3. The RIA report and the draft policy will be presented to Cabinet at its last meeting for the year (5 December 2012). 
4. It is expected that Cabinet will authorise the publication of the draft policy for public consultation at this meeting (or if the consideration of this matter is postponed, early in 2013). 
5. Public consultations will then follow in the form of meetings, workshops and perhaps a conference. 
6. After the public consultation process a final policy will be presented to Cabinet for approval (estimated to take place in March/April 2013). 
7. A Bill will then be drafted to implement the policy by amendment of existing IP legislation. Mr Netshitenzhe concluded his talk with these words "IP Policy and legislative review or reform may contribute to access to public health if done appropriately. All stakeholders should talk to the Draft in order to have a regime that is balanced". Most, if not all, of the participants at the meeting look forward to the publication of the draft policy and an opportunity to participate in the public consultation process. 
 The rest of the meeting consisted of the following presentations: 
1. Perspectives of the Department of Health by Dr Anban PIllay 
2. The use of TRIPS flexibilities in South Africa by Prof Yousuf Vadwa, University of Kwa-Zulu Natal 
3. Patent policy, innovation and diffusion in developing countries by Prof Bhaven Sampat, University of Columbia 
4. Using TRIPS flexibilities in India and other developing countries by Leena Menghaney, MSF Access Campaign 
The use of flexibilities will be the subject of future guest posts. 

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