World Trade Organization (WTO) members, including the US, are discussing a TRIPS waiver for intellectual property rights associated with COVID vaccines and treatments.  The US has historically been opposed, but President Biden’s newly confirmed US Trade Representative Katherine Tai promised during confirmation to fully consider the issue.

I recognize the critical importance of ensuring widespread access to lifesaving vaccines, diagnostics, therapeutics, treatments, and other key products worldwide in order to counter the pandemic and enable global economic recovery. If confirmed, I commit to examining the TRIPS waiver proposal thoroughly to determine its efficacy in enhancing our global health security and saving lives.

[Tai Testimony – Questions for the Record:  KatherineTaiSenateFinanceCommitteeQFRs2.28.2021].

IPO recently provided its input on behalf of US patent owners — arguing that there is “no data to suggest that patents and other IP rights are hindering vaccine development or delivery.” [Joint-IP-Association-Letter-Regarding-TRIPS-Waiver-Proposal-March-30-2020]

9 thoughts on “TRIPS COVID Waiver

  1. 3

    The waiver is not about waiving IP rights – who has a patent tin South Africa? It’s a registration system anyway. Who could enforce patents in those countries ? No one would get a fair trial. So what is the waiver really about?


    Because there are no pharmaceutical companies in these countries, these countries governments want AZ, Pfizer/BioNtech, Moderna, and JnJ to teach a local company how to make the vaccines. So this is not a waiver of IP, it is theft of IP.

    1. 3.1

      Shouldn’t they have taught those countries how to make the vaccines by way of their patent disclosures?

      How does the argument of forced technology transfer work in the context of patented products? Is the idea that these countries have no-one of ordinary skill in the art, or that they cannot afford the services of one of ordinary skill in the art?


          It’s either a big deal (and the actual complaint should be about level of recompense), or it’s not big deal (and this is a shameless cry in the face of this world’s largest dilemma in over 100 years).

          Maybe – just maybe – there is another option. I would not be amiss to seeing that option explored in more detail.


            Thanks Ben – that’s interesting.

            I have not checked to see whether this is purely a marketing ploy (see how innovating and forward thinking we are) or if these particular patents actually intersect with innovation generated in response to the emergence of the pandemic.

  2. 2

    This is disgusting. Part of the deal for lowering tariffs and thus allowing third world countries to sell products in the United States and drastically increasing their economies was that they would respect our intellectual property (which they hadn’t been doing before) INCLUDING our medical/pharmaceutical technology. This is evident in any fair reading of the agreement and the negotiations preceding it (wrote in law school about this actually and still have the paper for anyone interested).

    Unfortunately the health care is a human right and not an economic good crowd has successfully weakened the agreement starting shortly after it was signed. This has been disasterous for America and is a large reason for the current trade imbalance.

    Bill Clinton when talking about TRIPS said if it turned out not to be in our interest we would withdraw. Even though I am largely a believer in free trade – the time may have come to take that step.

    Intellectual Property rights are imperative, especially in the biosciences if you care at all about innovation.

  3. 1

    I note from the above the business pleading that “there is no data”.

    To be guided by “the data” depends of course on how much data there is, and what reliance one can place on it. Fortunately, the government in the UK did not trot out the excuse of insufficient data before getting 40% of their population vaccinated with the Astra-Zeneca product and driving down the C19 case numbers magnificently.

    But elsewhere? Here in Germany, we are going through successive suspensions of the Astra-Zeneca vaccination drive. Astra-Zeneca is popular because the company has pledged to forgo making a profit out of it and it’s dramatically cheaper for governments to buy than the other available vaccines. But there is a steady drip-drip of stories to the press, casting doubt on the safety of the A-Z product and thereby prompting people and their governments to demand one of the other much more expensive vaccines; anything (American, Russian, Chinese) but the European product. Here in Germany, the health authorities will soon be discarding A-Z vaccine because it has passed its “use by” date. What’s the motivation, I wonder, of those who are so busy rubbishing the A-Z vaccine product.

    So, whether or not IPR is slowing the world-wide vaccination programme, there sure are other business factors involved. Regardless of “the data” though, we all of us here know that none of us is safe till all of us is safe.

Comments are closed.