Thai civil society oppose proposal to amend patent law

Thai civil society protest

New law could undermine access to drugs

Thai civic groups expressed their grave concerns over the patent law amendment proposed by the Department of Intellectual Property (DIP). The proposal could undermine access to lifesaving medicines due to the introduction of TRIPs-plus provisions and revocation of “pre-grant opposition”.

100 people from civil society groups gathered at Ministry of Commerce today to oppose the patent law amendment and request representation at the consultation meeting on law amendment that was held at the Commerce Ministry.

The issues that DIP wanted to amend, in order to accelerate the patent examination process and encourage filing patents in Thailand, included 1) revoking pre-grant opposition, 2) adding up post-grant opposition, 3) reducing duration of the period before the start of innovative-step examination, 4) allowing later changes in content of the patent applications, 5) outsourcing the task of innovative-step examination to private organizations, and 6) applying Doha Declaration’s Paragraph 6 and August 31st Resolution.

Thai groups unite in opposition to proposed new law

Civil society organizations, academics on access to medicines, the local pharmaceutical industry, and some law firms opposed revocation of pre-grant opposition, and proposed to extend the period to one year, or until the date the patent is granted, instead of 90 days after the publication. They supported post-grant opposition and agreed that the period before the commencement of innovative-step examination should be cut down to one year after the date of publication, instead of five years. And, they expressed concerns over outsourcing innovative-step examination task that it had to be very cautious about conflict of interest and skills and capacity, particularly about pharmaceutical products. Civil society organizations proposed that it should be the Food and Drugs Administration to be responsible for this examination.

Multinationals pushing for change in Thai law

Multinational pharmaceutical industry and a number of foreign law firms proposed to remove pre-grant opposition from the law, and have only post-grant opposition. They also agreed with the shorter period before the commencement of innovative-step examination.

All the participants had no objection on the compliance with Paragraph 6 of Doha Declaration allowing Thai pharmaceutical companies to supply products to the countries that had implemented compulsory licensing. The DIP was open for additional submissions for another month so that the law amendment committee could review information, comments, and concerns, before developing the first draft of the amendment, for another round of consultation in May 2016.

Civil society left out of law making process

However, non-government organizations petitioned the DIP that the law making process, this time, was different from the previous government that ensured participation from all stakeholders including civil society groups, academics, alongside local and transnational drug companies in the law drafting committee. This time, the proposal from civil society to have their representatives in the committee was refused. The committee consisted only of relevant government agencies and the Thai Commerce Chamber, but no civil society or academics.