Traditional medicines have an equally important role as vaccines, therapeutics and medical devices protected through classical IPRs such as patents. For this reason, it is important to include traditional medicines within the scope of IPR protection, including within the WTO’s TRIPS Agreement. Doing so would go beyond the classical debate of protecting medicines, vaccines and therapeutics mainly through patents as currently understood within the TRIPS Agreement.
Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights
Although the restructuring of the existing legal framework is unavoidable, the solution must be carefully sought in a conducive, fair and equitable manner to ensure the needs and interest of the marginalised communities should be considered. It is possible that this approach may provoke controversy, but it is vital ensuring uniform and equitable legal framework that address the need and interest of the marginalised communities to find a balance in the system.
Post-Cotonou approaches to innovation require the technocrats to go beyond the jargon of ‘partnership of equals’ and change their own modus operandi: the future relationship must be based on co-production and the case of GIs is a testing ground for this. This would involve dedicating technical teams to work co-productively with farmers’ groups – women, youth, community-based – to understand the local issues that will impact any GI scheme in the regions. But it also means looking at new and novel products, such as cannabis, especially given the drive to legalise cannabis and in particular ‘medical marijuana. By extension, it means recognizing the importance of a development focused approach to the ACP and extending the scope of GIs beyond its current remit which has long-been defined by European values.
Unlike its West African neighbour, Ghana, where there is a flurry of debates around plant variety protection (PVP), there is silence on the subject in Nigeria. This silence is note-worthy because Nigeria has pending obligations under Article 27.3(b) of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) to introduce a PVP system. However, the silence should not be equated with absolute legislative inactivity around the subject in the country. Indeed, from 2006, there have been unsuccessful attempts to introduce a PVP system through intellectual property (IP) law reforms.