The World Trade Organization’s COVID-19 vaccine waiver proposal would negatively impact investment into future treatments, says Alexander Haertel of the European and Dispute Resolution Committees at the Licensing Executives Society International.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, calls to waive IP rights related to the disease have grown louder—for the development of vaccines and for the treatment of patients. There has been a push by India and South Africa urging the World Trade Organization (WTO) to issue a waiver as authorised under the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) governing IP rights, to effect “prevention, containment and treatment” of COVID-19.
This waiving of IP rights, including but not limited to patent rights, has been broadly discussed in many governmental bodies eager to do everything they can to accelerate vaccine distribution. To take effect, such a proposal would have to be approved by member countries.
If such a waiver were approved by the WTO the member states would be exempt from granting new patents, copyrights, industrial designs and the like for technology relating to COVID-19. The member states would also be exempt from enforcing those rights that already exist. How this waiver would be carried out in practice is difficult to assess as it would be up to each of the 164 member states of the WTO to implement it under their national laws.
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