Swiss position on patent protection criticised

Peter Niggli was one of the speakers at the conference on intellectual property Keystone Archive

One of the biggest British non-governmental organisations (NGO) has criticised Switzerland's support for international patent protection.

This content was published on February 5, 2002 - 06:50

Oxfam introduced its campaign against patent protection during a conference on intellectual property at the World Social Forum (WSF) in Brazil.

Last year, Switzerland and the United States expressed their support for international patent protection during the World Trade Organisation's ministerial meeting in Doha.

"Switzerland and the US were the only two industrialised countries at the WTO meeting in Doha to refuse a law, which, in case of a state of emergency, would give a country the right to ignore patent protection laws and produce or introduce cheaper versions of a patent," Peter Niggli, head of a Swiss charity working-group told swissinfo.

Developing countries

Oxfam claims that developing countries are losing out on patent protection laws as these laws do not only protect intellectual property, which include patents, copyright and brand names, but also high prices.

"The pharmaceutical industry in particular uses patent protection laws to close their markets to foreign competition," the Swiss economist and parliamentarian, Rudolf Strahm, said.

"If Pascal Couchepin supports drug patents, he will most certainly act as the mouthpiece of two big Swiss companies," he continued.

However, Oxfam thinks that not only does the pharmaceutical industry benefit from patent protection laws, but so do the education and agricultural sectors.

According to Dora Rapold of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, sufficient food can only be guaranteed if seeds can be cultivated to resist drought and crop diseases.

"If certain seeds cannot be re-developed due to patent protection it will have a negative impact on the production. The production will not be enough in order to feed the global population," she said.

Oxfam's campaign will be launched in April this year.

by Hansjörg Bolliger, Porto Allegre

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