Patent Waiver under WTO | WIPO | TRIPS | UPSC

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UPSC Current Affairs: The fig leaf of patent protection has to drop

UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Economy | GS Paper III – Economy

Context: Editorial is dealing with the recent proposal of US to waive of Patent protection to those goods and services that targets fight against COVID pandemic. Earlier India and South Africa gave a proposal in WTO to waive-off tight patent regime on equipment and supplies for COVID prevention. But nations like US, UK, Australia, EU, Norway, Switzerland, and Japan were against this proposal despite support the support from 60 nations.

More on IPR:

IPR refers to the creations of minds such as inventions, literary and artistic work, designs and symbols, names, and images in commerce.

Rights on IPR means providing property rights through patents, copyrights, and trademarks.

The importance of IPR was first recognized in the

  • Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property (1883) &
  • Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary & Artistic Works (1886).

Both are administered by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).

  • IPRs have been outlined in Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
  • WTO governs IPR through Trade-Related Aspects of the Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).

World Intellectual Property Organisation:

  • WIPO is one of the 15 specialized agencies of the United Nations (UN).
  • WIPO was created to promote and protect intellectual property (IP) across the world by cooperating with countries as well as international organizations.
  • It began operations in 1970.
  • Headquarters: Geneva, Switzerland.
  • WIPO currently has 193 member states.
  • WIPO’s activities includehosting forums to discuss and shape international IP rules and policies,providing global services that register and protect IP in different countries,resolving transboundary IP disputes,helping connect IP systems through uniform standards and infrastructure, andserving as a general reference database on all IP matters.


TRIPS is an international agreement on intellectual property rights.

The Agreement covers most forms of intellectual property including

  1. patents,
  2. copyright,
  • trademarks,
  1. geographical indications,
  2. industrial designs,
  3. trade secrets, &
  • exclusionary rights over new plant varieties.

It came into force in 1995 & is binding on all members of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

1. Patents Given to new product and process. Patent acts, 1970 DPIIT, Ministry of Commerce Period 20 years
2. Trademarks Given to a name, word, phrase, logo, symbol, design, image, or combination of these elements. Trademark act, 1999 DPIIT, Ministry of Commerce Period 10 years
3. Geographical Indication It is a sign used on products that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or a reputation that are due to that origin. Geographical Indication of Goods (Registration and protection) Act, 1999. DPIIT, Ministry of Commerce Period 10 years
4. Copyrights It is a bundle of rights given by the law to the creators of literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works and the producers of cinematograph films and sound recordings. Copyright Act 1957 Copyrights Office, MoHRD Period 60 years.
5. Designs It may consist 3D features such as shape of an article or 2D feature such as Patterns, lines, or colour. Design Act, 2000 DPIIT, Ministry of Commerce Period 10 years (5 grace years)
6. Plant Variety Protection Protection granted for plant varieties. These rights are given to the farmers and plant breeders to encourage the development of new varieties of plants. Protection of Plant varieties and farmers’ right act, 2011. Ministry of Agriculture 15 years to field crops & 18 years to Trees and vines.
7. Semi-conductors and integrated layouts Semi-conductor layout design means a layout of transistors and other circuitry elements and expressed in any manner in semi-conductor integrated circuits. Semi-conductors and integrated layouts design act, 2000 Department of electronics and IT, Ministry of Communication, and IT. 10 years

(Cell for IPR Promotion & Management) has been created as a professional body under the aegis of DPIIT to take forward the implementation of the National IPR Policy 2016.


  • CIPAM is working towards creating public awareness about IPRs in the country,
  • Promoting the filing of IPRs through facilitation.
  • Providing inventors with a platform to commercialize their IP assets &
  • Coordinating the implementation of the National IPR Policy in collaboration with Government Ministries/Departments & other stakeholders.

Issues in IPR:

  1. Evergreening of the patents for multinational companies: Evergreening is strategy for extending the term of granted patent which is about to expire without increasing therapeutic efficacy in order to retain royalties. However, the companies cannot evergreen their patents simply by making minor changes. So, section 3(d) in the Indian Patent Act (IPA) possesses as one of the biggest issues with regards to IPR. This implied that India did not support patents for inventions which were minor modifications and prevented undue monopoly during the extended period of patent protection by the company.
  2. Use of compulsory licensing: Compulsory licenses are authorizations given to a third-party by the Government to make, use or sell a particular patented product without the need of the permission of the patent owner. The provisions regarding compulsory licenses are given in the Indian Patents Act, 1970 & in the TRIPS (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) Agreement.

It is a relaxation available to the developing countries under the TRIPS agreement, something which organizations misuse sometimes. Moreover, under section 84 of the IPA, a company can acquire a compulsory license for “private commercial use” under certain circumstances.

With the Drug Price Control Order, the company needs to justify the price of the drug with regards to investments. If someone plays foul, then the government has the right to intervene. Multinationals are asking the government to revoke this provision. However, the government is not ceding the demands to protect the interest of the masses.


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