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

Journal of Intellectual Property Studies, 2021

92 Pages Posted: 2 Sep 2021

See all articles by Matthew Rimmer

Matthew Rimmer

Queensland University of Technology (QUT)

Date Written: August 31, 2021


This paper explores intellectual property and access to essential medicines in the context of the coronavirus COVID-19 public health crisis. It considers policy solutions to counteract vaccine nationalism and profiteering by pharmaceutical companies and vaccine developers. This paper considers the campaign for the development of a People's Vaccine led by the People’s Vaccine Alliance, UNAIDS, Oxfam and Public Citizen. The WHO has established the ACT Accelerator in order to boost research, development, and deployment of COVID-19 technologies. However, the operation of COVAX thus far has been falling short of its original ambitions. The Medicines Patent Pool has expanded its jurisdiction to include the sharing of intellectual property related to COVID-19. Meanwhile, Costa Rica has proposed a COVID-19 Technology Access Pool – an idea for a new institutional structure which has been taken up by the WHO. In the context of the coronavirus public health crisis, there has also been discussion of the use of compulsory licensing and crown use to counteract profiteering and anti-competitive behavior. There has been a push by Universities Allied for Essential Medicines (UAEM) and others for the public licensing of COVID-19 technologies developed with government funding. The Open COVID Pledge has been taken by a number of intellectual property owners. In response to the assertion of proprietary rights in respect of COVID-19 technologies, the open movement has championed the development of Open Science models of science. 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. While the United States has been willing to support a TRIPS Waiver for vaccines, there remain a number of opponents to a TRIPS Waiver – including the European Union, Germany, Japan, and Switzerland. 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 the Coronavirus COVID-19 (August 31, 2021). Journal of Intellectual Property Studies, 2021, 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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