WTO Members Agreed to Continue Discussion on IP Waiver in Response to COVID-19

The WTO members on 10 December agreed to continue discussion on the proposal initiated by India and South Africa at the meeting of the Council on TRIPS. The proposal was made for a temporary waiver of certain TRIPS obligations in response to COVID-19. The proposal was later on co-sponsored by delegations of Kenya, Eswatini, Pakistan, Mozambique and Bolivia.

The document calls for a waiver for all WTO members of certain provisions of the TRIPS Agreement in relation to the “prevention, containment or treatment” of COVID-19. According to the proponents, the objective is to avoid barriers to the timely access to affordable medical products including vaccines and medicines or to scaling-up of research, development, manufacturing and supply of essential medical products.

The waiver would cover obligations in four sections of the TRIPS Agreement – Section 1 on copyright and related rights, Section 4 on industrial designs, Section 5 on patents and Section 7 on the protection of undisclosed information. It would last for a specific number of years, to be agreed by the General Council, and until widespread vaccination is in place globally and the majority of the world’s population is immune. Members would review the waiver annually until termination. 

The first meeting for the proposal of waiver were held at the TRIPS Council on 15-16 October, 20 November and 3 December.

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