U.S., Japan mull joint TPP proposal on 2-track drug patent protection

The United States and Japan are considering making a joint proposal concerning Trans-Pacific Partnership rules on drug patents, making it possible for generic drugs to be sold sooner in developing countries, sources close to the matter said Saturday.

According to the sources, the joint proposal will call on developed nations like the United States, Japan and Australia to extend the period of patent protection for medicinal drugs while allowing shorter periods in developing countries like Malaysia and Vietnam.

Washington has been insisting on the patent extension in TPP talks on intellectual property to protect the interest of U.S. drug makers. But emerging economies like Malaysia have voiced concern, contending extended patent protection would delay the availability of less expensive generic drugs.

The United States and Japan are apparently opting for easier rules for developing countries, judging that promotion of generic drugs would ultimately benefit the drug industry as a whole.

The proposal is expected to be tabled at a working group session on intellectual property to be held in Mexico City later this month, the sources said.

The United States and Japan seek to discuss the proposal at a TPP ministerial meeting in Bali, Indonesia, next month, according to the sources.

The countries involved in the TPP talks are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam.