The TRIPS Agreement Article 73 Security Exceptions and the COVID-19 Pandemic

40 Pages Posted: 28 Aug 2020

See all articles by Frederick M. Abbott

Frederick M. Abbott

Florida State University - College of Law

Date Written: August 1, 2020


The COVID-19 pandemic has caused Governments to contemplate measures to override patents and other intellectual property rights (IPRs) in order to facilitate production and distribution of vaccines, treatments, diagnostics and medical devices. This paper discusses whether the COVID-19 pandemic may be considered an “emergency in international relations” and how WTO Member States may invoke Article 73 (“Security Exceptions”) of the TRIPS Agreement as the legal basis for overriding IPRs otherwise required to be made available or enforced. It concludes that the pandemic constitutes an emergency in international relations within the meaning of Article 73(b)(iii) and that this provision allows Governments to take actions necessary to protect their essential security interests.

Keywords: WTO, TRIPS Agreement, Security Exceptions, COVID-19, emergency, pharmaceutical, patent

JEL Classification: F13, F52, H41, H56, I14, I18, K32, O24, O34, O38

Suggested Citation

Abbott, Frederick M., The TRIPS Agreement Article 73 Security Exceptions and the COVID-19 Pandemic (August 1, 2020). Research Paper 116, South Centre, Geneva (August 2020), FSU College of Law, Public Law Research Paper No. 930, FSU College of Law, Law, Business & Economics Paper No. 20-16, Available at SSRN: or

Frederick M. Abbott (Contact Author)

Florida State University - College of Law ( email )

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Tallahassee, FL 32306
United States
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