Technical brief |

WTO COVID-19 TRIPS Waiver Proposal: Myths, realities and an opportunity for governments to protect access to medical tools in a pandemic

As the COVID-19 pandemic has unfolded, one of the challenges is the negative impact that intellectual property (IP) barriers have had in the past and are anticipated to have on the scale up of manufacturing and supply of lifesaving COVID-19 medical tools across the world.

Given this, South Africa and India submitted a landmark proposal earlier this year to the World Trade Organization (WTO) requesting that countries be allowed to waive certain IP rights, under the Agreement of Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), until the majority of the world population receives effective vaccines and develops immunity to COVID-19. Unfortunately, some WTO members – Australia, Brazil, Canada, the EU, Japan, Norway, Switzerland, the UK, and the US – oppose this proposal. Some of these countries have traditionally backed the interests of pharmaceutical corporations through a proprietary IP system.

Opponents of the TRIPS waiver proposal have promoted some myths regarding the impact of IP on COVID-19 technologies. This briefing document dispels those myths and explains why all countries should support the waiver proposal to protect access to lifesaving medical tools in a pandemic.