New paper examines Japan’s push for stronger intellectual property provisions

12 February 2018: The latest round of negotiations for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement have just concluded in Jakarta. Japan, the second largest exporter of intellectual property in the world, is leading the push for extended intellectual property protections. However Japan is facing resistance from India and some other members who are concerned about the impact  that it would have on access to affordable medicines.

Dr Belinda Townsend (ANU), Dr Deborah Gleeson (La Trobe University) and Dr Ruth Lopert (George Washington University) have co-authored a timely new paper, ‘Japan’s emerging role in the global pharmaceutical intellectual property regime: a tale of two trade agreements’, which discusses how and why Japan has fought to increase intellectual property protections in the RCEP and TPP. The paper is summarised here.

Japan has been supportive of increased IP protections since at least 2013. The leaked draft text of the November 2013 TPP agreement proves Japan was supportive of the United States’ efforts to extend several IP provisions back then, and then pushed for the provisions to be replicated in the RCEP. The latest leaked version of the RCEP show many of these dangerous provisions remain. These provisions include extended patent terms, and mandatory minimum periods which ban companies seeking to sell generic medicines from relying on clinical trial data used by the original developer of medicines.

Some  of these intellectual property provisions are among those temporarily suspended from the rebranded Comprehensive Progressive Agreement for TPP (CPTPP), pending the return of the US to the agreement.it  This further undermines the case for including such provisions in the RCEP.