Some 30 Thai activists on May 3 protested outside the U.S. embassy in Bangkok against a new report that ranked the kingdom among the world's worst offenders of intellectual property rights amid a patent row with Western drug firms. The activists accused the U.S. Trade Representative's office of grouping Thailand with copyright offenders such as China, Russia and India in retaliation for the government's decision to allow generic versions of AIDS drugs and heart medication.
In an annual report released on April 30, the U.S. trade office said it was concerned by "an overall deterioration in the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights in Thailand." Apart from rampant copyright violations on books, DVDs and apparel here, the report said Thailand's generic drug efforts were "further indications of a weakening of respect for patents."
"This protest is to express our dismay and outrage at the USTR decision in response to Thailand's decision to issue three compulsory licenses," the activists said in a statement So-called compulsory licenses are allowed under World Trade Organization rules so that countries can temporarily suspend patent protections on medicines to safeguard public health.
Thailand has issued compulsory licenses for AIDS drugs Kaletra and Efavirenz and popular heart disease medicine Plavix. The government plans to import generic versions of the drugs from India, but could also choose to manufacture them itself.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2007