On Wednesday 15th January 2020, US president Donald Trump and Chinese vice-premier Liu He signed an economic and trade agreement which Mr Trump described as “the biggest deal anybody has even seen”. The deal promises to be the first phase of a larger new trade agreement between the US and China, signifying a de-escalation in their trade war – at least for now. Intellectual property (IP) was one of the main points of contention during the trade talks and thus it is perhaps unsurprising that IP matters are addressed in the first chapter. Of particular interest to those in the pharmaceutical sector will be Sections C and D of Chapter 1, which outline China’s commitment to improving protection and enforcement of pharmaceutical related patent rights. Sceptics will argue that these provisions simply represent a long overdue pledge by China to align its patent system with the US and other Western states, with no guarantee that they will actually implement or enforce the provisions of the agreement. However, in my view the deal appears to represent China’s willingness to do more to protect pharmaceutical patent rights and contains provisions that (if properly implemented and enforced) could significantly increase the value of drug related patents in China.
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