Public health, innovation, intellectual property and trade

Intellectual property and trade

The impact of intellectual property protection on access to medicines, in particular, the impact of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and regional free trade agreements, has been one of the most debated topics in recent years.

Since the entry into force of the TRIPS Agreement, many resolutions of the World Health Assemblies have requested WHO to address the impact of trade agreements and intellectual property protection on public health and access to medicines. In 2006, the WHO Commission on Intellectual Property Rights, Innovation and Public Health (CIPIH) submitted its report containing 60 recommendations aimed at fostering innovation and improving access to medicines. Based on these recommendations an Intergovernmental Working Group negotiated the Global Strategy and Plan of Action on Public Health, Innovation and Intellectual Property, that now along with other relevant resolutions constitutes the basic mandate for WHO’s work in this area.

WHO’s main activities include:

  • provide, upon request, technical support to Member States on public health related aspects of intellectual property and trade policies
  • conduct training and capacity building on health impact of trade agreements and on how to manage and apply intellectual property for public health
  • research the relationship of innovation, intellectual property and access to medical products
  • facilitate access to patent information

In this context, WHO closely collaborates with other relevant international and regional organizations, such as the World Trade Organization and the World Intellectual Property Organization.