The People's Vaccine: Intellectual Property, Access to Essential Medicines, and COVID-19

Journal of Intellectual Property Studies, 2022, Vol. 5 (1), 1-71

71 Pages Posted: 2 Sep 2021 Last revised: 18 Jan 2022

See all articles by Matthew Rimmer

Matthew Rimmer

Queensland University of Technology (QUT)

Date Written: January 17, 2022


This paper explores intellectual property and access to essential medicines in the context of the COVID-19 public health crisis. It considers policy solutions to counteract vaccine nationalism and profiteering by pharmaceutical companies and vaccine developers. It discusses the campaign for the development of a People's Vaccine led by the People’s Vaccine Alliance, UNAIDS, Oxfam and Public Citizen. This paper charts the ACT Accelerator developed by the WHO in order to boost research, development, and deployment of COVID-19 technologies. It comments on the role of the Medicines Patent Pool in the coronavirus crisis, as well as Costa Rica’s proposed for a COVID-19 Technology Access Pool. In the context of the coronavirus public health crisis, the article also discusses the use of compulsory licensing and Crown use to counteract profiteering and anti-competitive behaviour. The article takes note of the growing Open Science movement in response to the assertion of proprietary rights in respect of COVID-19 technologies. India and South Africa have put forward a waiver proposal in the TRIPS Council to enable countries to take action in respect of COVID-19 without fear of retribution under trade laws; however, this has been opposed by multiple countries. This paper makes the case that international intellectual property law should accommodate a People's Vaccine.

Note: Funding: This paper is supported by a local QUT Edge grant (which supports a post-doctoral position for a year).

Declaration of Interests: None to declare.

Keywords: Intellectual Property, Patent Law, Access to Essential Medicines, Compulsory Licensing, ACT Accelerator, Patent Pool, Medicines Patent Pool, C-TAP, Public Sector Licensing, Patent Pledges, Open Licensing, Open Innovation, Coronavirus, COVID-19, World Trade Organization, TRIPS Agreement 1994, Doha De

Suggested Citation

Rimmer, Matthew, The People's Vaccine: Intellectual Property, Access to Essential Medicines, and COVID-19 (January 17, 2022). Journal of Intellectual Property Studies, 2022, Vol. 5 (1), 1-71, Available at SSRN: or

Matthew Rimmer (Contact Author)

Queensland University of Technology (QUT) ( email )

Level 4, C Block Gardens Point
2 George St
Brisbane, Queensland QLD 4000

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