To Waive or Not to Waive: The Debate and Analysis of TRIPS Waiver

28 Pages Posted: 4 Oct 2023

Date Written: September 28, 2023


The COVID-19 pandemic has reignited the decades-long debate over intellectual property rights (hereinafter “IPRs”) and global inequitable access to medical products. After heated debates over South Africa and India’s IPRs waiver proposal, on June 17, 2022, the World Trade Organization (WTO) members finally agreed to waive patent rights on COVID-19 vaccines with limited conditions
and delayed the discussion on waiver extension to COVID-19 diagnostics and therapeutics. In this battle against COVID-19, it is true that the global community has made progress in successfully developing effective medical products, but then the inequity in access to those products between developed and developing countries causes it to be further behind than it was when it made progress. The virus never distinguishes between rich and poor countries, and access to vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics shouldn’t either. This article argues that waiving IPRs on COVID-19 medical products could improve global access to them. It compares both sides of the debate and emphasizes that a broader coverage of types of IPRs and pharmaceutical products is necessary to achieve global equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines and pharmaceutical products. In addition to lowering IPR barriers through the Waiver, increasing manufacturing capacity and re-distributing the global stockpile are also important solutions to making pharmaceutical products available to those in need.

Keywords: WTO, TRIPS Agreement, TRIPS Waiver Proposal, TRIPS Waiver, compulsory license, patent, COVID-19 vaccine inequity, COVID-19 diagnostics and therapeutics, intellectual property rights, pandemic, international law

Suggested Citation

Xu, Shuwen, To Waive or Not to Waive: The Debate and Analysis of TRIPS Waiver (September 28, 2023). Asian Journal of WTO & International Health Law and Policy, Vol. 18, No. 2, pp. 423-450, September 2023, Available at SSRN:

Shuwen Xu (Contact Author)

Shandong University ( email )

27 Shanda Nanlu
South Rd.
Jinan, SD Shandong 250100

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics