US Support for a WTO Waiver of COVID-19 Intellectual Property – What Does it Mean?

Bill of Health, May 7, 2021

8 Pages Posted: 10 May 2021 Last revised: 24 May 2021

See all articles by Jorge L. Contreras

Jorge L. Contreras

University of Utah - S.J. Quinney College of Law

Date Written: May 7, 2021

Abstract

On May 5, 2021, U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai announced that the U.S. would support a “waiver of IP protections on COVID-19 vaccines to help end the pandemic” currently being discussed at the World Trade Organization (WTO). The unprecedented U.S. support of the proposed WTO IP waiver is an important national gesture toward global solidarity in a time of crisis. Yet it is important to remember the limited scope of such a waiver — it simply provides that countries will not be able to bring trade-related claims in the WTO against countries that issue compulsory IP licenses in the context of COVID-19. The impact of such a waiver on international vaccine supplies will depend in large part on how other countries elect to implement compulsory licensing rules under the waiver, and whether they can effectively require the transfer of confidential manufacturing, testing, and safety information to supplemental producers. Alternatively, the threat of such governmental action around the world could encourage companies to engage in voluntary knowledge transfer to alleviate global supply shortages, which might be the greatest benefit of the WTO IP waiver.

Keywords: WTO, patent, COVID-19, compulsory licensing

Suggested Citation

Contreras, Jorge L., US Support for a WTO Waiver of COVID-19 Intellectual Property – What Does it Mean? (May 7, 2021). Bill of Health, May 7, 2021, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3842265

Jorge L. Contreras (Contact Author)

University of Utah - S.J. Quinney College of Law ( email )

383 S. University Street
Salt Lake City, UT 84112-0730
United States

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