The TRIPS provisions

© Anthony Anex/Keystone
Switzerland and its pharmaceutical industry are, however, not satisfied with the minimum standards established by the TRIPS Agreement. In its external policies, Switzerland maintains constant pressure to obtain even more protection through intellectual property, in particular by multiplying the negotiation of bilateral agreements on free trade (FTA) with several emergent countries.

Within the framework of these agreements, clauses going beyond the minimum standard of intellectual property of the WTO, (named TRIPS) are negotiated. These clauses menace access to drugs for poorer populations.

Problems caused by TRIPS provisions

The bilateral agreement negotiated with India is emblematic. Negotiated in secret under the auspices of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), which includes Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein, this agreement aims to reinforce intellectual property, such as the extension of the duration of the validity of the patents, the exclusivity of experimental data used for the approval of drugs, or the protection of the investments of multinationals in this country.

The exclusivity of experimental data would enable pharmaceuticals multinationals to systematically forbid the Indian regulatory authorities to use the data generated by their clinical trials to authorise an equivalent generic product. This would apply for at least five years after the launch of their product (in Switzerland, for example, this period is fixed at ten years). While the production of generic medicines is not generally allowed during the period of validity of the patent, this new provision would further delay the sale of cheaper drugs.

© Rajesh Kumar Singh/Keystone/AP

A similar negotiation is taking place with Indonesia, with the same kinds of requirements expressed by Switzerland. Swiss and Norwegian NGOs, led by Public Eye have shared their concerns with the Minister for the Economy Johann Schneider-Ammann in an open letter that requests Switzerland not to negotiate provisions that go beyond the TRIPS agreement of the World Trade Organisation.

Lastly, the reticence of rich countries, including Switzerland, to grant Least Developed Countries (LDCs) a permanent exemption without conditions from the application of the intellectual property regulations of the WTO – whereas it recognises the special status of these countries – is another example of a TRIPS+ provision.