Business group opposes IP extension for biologics

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The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry opposes any extension to data protection for biologics.

In its submission to the Senate inquiry into the 12-country Trans Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP), the organisation that claims to "speak on behalf of the Australian business community at home and abroad," singles out for praise Australian opposition to the US position on biologics.

"We welcome the Australian Government’s resistance to calls for increased IP terms, particularly on Biologics as negotiated in the agreement, however we are concerned that the US will attempt to renegotiate these provisions within the certification efforts post-ratification," it says.

It does not provide an explanation for its opposition.

AusBiotech has backed the adoption of an 8-year period, arguing it would support investment in Australia's life sciences sector.

The US pushed for longer data protection periods for biologics in the TPP.

The final wording of the TPP's intellectual property chapter has provided some ambiguity in relation to the issue.

The text says countries can provide a legislated 8-year period, or a 'market protection' period that delivers a "comparable outcome" of 8 years comprised of a legislated 5-year period plus "other measures".

The US Trade Representative has said it expects countries to adopt the 8-year period. The Turnbull government, led by former trade minister Andrew Robb and successor Steve Ciobo, has a somewhat nuanced public position, arguing the final text does not require it to make any legislative change to the current 5-year period covering all pharmaceuticals.

Key US political leaders have called for renegotiation of the agreement following its finalisation, arguing its wording on data protection is unacceptable.

Republical Senator Orrin Hatch chairs the US Senate Finance Committee.

He told the ABC he could not blame Australia for trying to 'steal' US patents. "They want things to come off patent as quickly as they can," he said.

"But there still has to be enough patent term to be able to recoup the approximately $2 billion and 15 years of effort that you have in biologics, and there's no way you can do that in five years," he added.

ACCI's opposition to an extension to the protection period for biologics appears to be a recently adopted position.

The organisation did not make any mention of biologics or any recommendation on intellectual property for pharmaceuticals in its June 2016 submission to the Productivity Commission Inquiry into Intellectual Property Arrangements.

The fate of the TPP is highly uncertain, at best, given both main candidates in the US presidential election oppose its ratification.

ACCI had not responded to questions at the time of publication.