This was partly because the
proposal related to the
December 2013 Bali Ministerial Conference, with a call for
a declaration highlighting the flexibilities available in the
TRIPs Agreement (along the lines of the
2001 Doha Ministerial Declaration on TRIPS and Public
Health). The delegate from Ecuador also proposed reducing
patent terms for green technologies.
Sources at the WTO say that Ecuador won support from Cuba,
El Salvador, India, China, South Africa, Brazil and Benin.
Unsurprisingly IP-rich members (the EU, Japan, Switzerland, the
US and Australia, along with Chile) argued that IP protection
does not obstruct technology transfer. Factors such as
regulatory regimes, proper infrastructure and low patent fees
are also important for technology transfer.
There are plenty of practical problems raised by issues to
do green technology, not least agreeing what it is. Does an
innovation that allows coal-fired power stations to produce 5%
less CO2 than a conventional power station, for example,
constitute environmentally-sound technology?
But working out some answers to those kinds of questions,
and gathering some data that demonstrates the role (positive or
negative) of IP in the transfer of climate change-mitigating
technology should surely be near the top of policy
makers’ to-do lists.
When Ecuador first submitted its
proposal last year, Saudi Arabia said that climate change
should be discussed in organisations such as the UN Environment
Programme, and by the WTO’s Trade and Environment
Committee, but not the TRIPs Council. That kind of forum
shifting has served to prevent much meaningful progress on
issues to do with IP and traditional knowledge. Surely climate
change is too important an issue for TRIPs Council members to
bat off elsewhere?