"" Photo by Sophia Apostolia
Technical brief |

India and South Africa proposal for WTO waiver from IP protections for COVID-19-related medical technologies

Photo by Sophia Apostolia

[Last updated 27 May 2021]

*Note: This briefing document was updated and replaces an earlier version.

In a landmark move, India and South Africa on 2 October 2020 asked the World Trade Organization (WTO) to allow all countries to choose to neither grant nor enforce patents and other intellectual property (IP) related to COVID-19 drugs, vaccines, diagnostics and other technologies for the duration of the pandemic, until global herd immunity is achieved.

This briefing document includes:

  • A Q&A to provide further details related to this important development.
  • Examples of Article IX waivers that have been granted with respect to provisions under the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights Agreement (TRIPS) Agreement in the past.

In today’s global emergency, MSF calls on all WTO members to support this waiver request. As an automatic and expedited solution to address patents and other IP barriers at the international level, the waiver is an important opportunity for all governments to unite and stand up for public health, global solidarity and equitable access.

Read MSF Access Campaign’s press release calling on governments to support this waiver at the WTO.

Also read a related briefing document on the myths and realities of how the waiver proposal can protect access to lifesaving medical tools in a pandemic.

South African activists protest in support of the WTO TRIPS Waiver Photo by Tadeu Andre

No Patents, No Monopolies in a Pandemic

Monopolies are often an obstacle between people and the lifesaving health tools they need. Patents and other exclusivities limit supply and keep prices high.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown we need new rules that can help every country address the fast-growing medical needs during a major global health crisis.

Over 100 countries at the World Trade Organization (WTO) supported a proposal to temporarily waive patents, trade secrets and other intellectual property (IP) on all COVID-19 medical tools.

Photo by Tadeu Andre