WTO Waiver from Intellectual Property Protection for COVID-19 Vaccines and Treatments: A Critical Review

Virginia Journal of International Law Online (Forthcoming 2021)

25 Pages Posted: 22 Feb 2021 Last revised: 11 Apr 2021

See all articles by Bryan Mercurio

Bryan Mercurio

Chinese University of Hong Kong - Faculty of Law

Date Written: February 12, 2021

Abstract


In view of the increasing concern over global efforts to ensure equitable access to affordable COVID-19 vaccines, India and South Africa presented a proposal to the World Trade Organization (WTO) in October 2020 seeking a waiver of intellectual property rights (IPRs) in order to increase access to vaccines or other COVID-19 related technologies. The proposal seeks to waive IPRs that could relate to and impact the “prevention, containment or treatment of COVID-19 … until widespread vaccination is in place globally, and the majority of the world’s population has developed an immunity.” While the proposal has attracted support from some WTO Members and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), it has also proven to be contentious and has not been endorsed by all WTO Members. This article reviews the justifications put forward for the proposal before presenting counterarguments that the waiver is unnecessary, would not alleviate the burden of access to effective and affordable medicines and vaccines and could potentially hamper R&D and innovation in the pharmaceutical sector.

Keywords: intellectual property, TRIPS, international trade, WTO, development, waiver, COVID-19, access to medicines

JEL Classification: K30, K33, I18, O10, O19, O34, O38

Suggested Citation

Mercurio, Bryan Christopher, WTO Waiver from Intellectual Property Protection for COVID-19 Vaccines and Treatments: A Critical Review (February 12, 2021). Virginia Journal of International Law Online (Forthcoming 2021), Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3789820 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3789820

Bryan Christopher Mercurio (Contact Author)

Chinese University of Hong Kong - Faculty of Law ( email )

6/F Western Teaching Complex
Shatin, New Territories
Hong Kong
(852) 2696 1139 (Phone)

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