THEORIES OF INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY AND ACCESS TO MEDICINES IN THE SOUTHERN AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY (SADC)
Keywords:access-to-medicines, innovation, investment, diseases, rewards theory of patents, theories of intellectual property
Despite the adoption of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Doha Declaration on the Agreement on Trade Related aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) and Public Health in 2001, which unequivocally affirmed WTO members’ rights to use compulsory licences and other TRIPS flexibilities to access essential medicines, thirteen years on, developing countries and least developed countries are still grappling with access to medicines issues and a high disease burden. Despite some well-researched and eloquent arguments to the contrary, it is a trite fact that patents remain an impediment to access to medicines by encouraging monopolistic prices. In the Southern African Development Community (SADC), a number of possible solutions to the access to medicines problem, such as local manufacturing of pharmaceuticals, using compulsory licences, using parallel importation and investing in research and innovation, have been raised. This paper looks at the possibility of solving the SADC access-to-medicines problem through rewarding innovation and investment into diseases of the poor, by applying the rewards theory of patents. After an initial exposition of theories of intellectual property in general, the paper specifically looks at the rewards theory and contextualizes it to the SADC situation, and comes to the conclusion that the theory may point to one of the viable solutions to the access-to-medicines problem in the region.
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