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BRICS Countries: A New Source for International IP law? The Case of Pharmaceutical Patents

Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa have recently become more visible on the international arena. Scholars have thus started to explore what role the BRICS bloc would play in developing an alternative IP model for developing countries. This research project seeks to analyse the role of the BRICS in changing the international IP system, specifically in the context of the ongoing debate in relation to access to medicines.

Last Update: 26.11.18

The new global order pushes BRICS countries to be united as a bloc in order to advance their interests, including in the area of global health. Creating an alliance to resist the imposition of overarching international IP rules favoring primarily western pharmaceutical companies is not an entirely novel approach for some of the BRICS. Brazil and India were at the outset active adversaries to the US during the Uruguay negotiations and resisted the inclusion in the GATT of the topic on intellectual property. The adoption of the TRIPS largely in the same form and design as promoted by the US, specifically in relation to patent law, demonstrates that Brazil and India were less successful than they would have wished to be in opposing strong IP rights for rightholders at the international level.

However, at the national level Brazil and India made significant steps to ensure that the TRIPS would not be perceived as absolute and omnipotent. Both countries seemed to have recognized that there should be an alternative ‘hybrid model of intellectual property protection’ which balances the needs and interests of the rightholder and the public in the context of developing countries. In particular, in the context of pharmaceutical patents, such a hybrid model would mean that the implementation of the TRIPS in national systems would necessarily entail the use of TRIPS flexibilities, such as compulsory licensing, parallel importation, as well as lenient regulatory data protection rules. In other words, Brazil and India have chosen the policy of restricting patent rights by implementing TRIPS flexibilities, while at the same time stimulating generic sectors in their countries. The other BRICS - China, Russia, and South Africa - pursue the same policy, thus potentially uniting all five countries and advancing the possibility of having a common ground in relation to access to medicines debate.

This research project seeks to explore the potential role that the BRICS bloc can play in facilitating access to medicines in developing and least-developed countries.


Doctoral Student

Irina Weissert

Doctoral Supervisor

Prof. Peter Van den Bossche

Main Areas of Research

III.2 Rechtsentwicklung in außereuropäischen Rechtsordnungen