HC Deb 08 July 2003 vol 408 cc746-7W
Mr. Laxton

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what steps her Department is taking to ensure that intellectual property laws in the UK do not inhibit access to drugs in developing countries, with particular reference to the treatment of HIV and AIDS. [121319]

Mr. Mike O'Brien

A UK intellectual property right for a drug gives no rights over use of the drug in another country.

Intellectual Property Rights are territorial; patents in one country are not enforceable in another (although there are some regional agreements, such as the European Patent Convention). This means that any effects of intellectual property rights in the UK on access to medicines will be indirect.

The effect of intellectual property rights on access to medicines in developing countries has attracted significant attention recently.

Instead, the issue is primarily one of the effects of intellectual property rights in developing countries themselves—and international agreements, such as the World Trade Organisation's Trade-related aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (WTO TRIPs) Agreement, which require these rights to be available. A specific concern at present is changing the effect of TRIPs to enable countries with insufficient manufacturing capacity to make effective use of compulsory licenses for needed pharmaceuticals. All WTO members committed to solving this problem at the Ministerial Conference in Doha in 2001. This change would not require the UK to change its own laws, and the Government has made no commitment to do so.

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