The book discusses the manner in which patent rights adversely affect access to medicines by developing countries and proposes ways to mitigate this. From the author’s point of view, the current international patent rights system as embodied in the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS Agreement) is too concerned with protecting the interests of innovators at the expense of all other users. In this way, the TRIPS Agreement, by introducing mandatory minimum and stronger standards for the protection of patent rights, has provided an incentive for pharmaceutical companies to charge inflated prices while concentrating their investments mainly towards diseases that affect developed countries. Further, the TRIPS Agreement has diminished the policy space available for developing countries to design patent regimes that are suitable for their developmental and technological needs and circumstances.
I credit this book with providing an extremely thorough analysis of the relationship between pharmaceutical patents and human rights and moving us forward to an understanding that will undoubtedly improve access to medicines if applied. It will no doubt prove invaluable to policy makers, judges, legislators, activists, governments, students, and the general public.
In the book, I critically examine the nature of the relationship between patent rights and the right to health under international law. I equally critically evaluate how tribunals and courts in Kenya, South Africa, and India address the tension between patent rights and the right to health. Crucially, the book highlights the strategic role that national courts can play in facilitating access to affordable medicines.
Attracting foreign investment while holding transnational corporations to account for any human rights transgressions is by no means an easy feat. It will require that a careful balance be struck between the interests of the host State and its people, and that of private actors expecting good risk-return ratios in pursuit of the bottom line. Although international mechanisms such as the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights have long endorsed accountability for transnational corporations, a zero draft international convention to regulate this issue has only recently been developed.
It is crucial to incorporate both a balanced approach and a human rights perspective into the negotiations on intellectual property in the context of the AfCFTA. In this regard, it should be noted that the TRIPS Agreement gives countries considerable flexibility with regard to how they can choose to protect plants and new plant varieties because Article 27(3)(b) of the TRIPS Agreement permits countries to exclude plants from patentability although it requires them to provide protection for plant varieties either by patents or by an effective sui generis system or by any combination thereof.