TRIPS, the intellectual property system and COVID-19
The way in which an intellectual property (IP) system is designed at national or regional levels – and how effectively it is put to work - can be a significant factor in facilitating access to existing technologies and in supporting the creation, manufacturing and dissemination of new technologies, such as medicines, vaccines and medical devices, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This question – the relationship of IP to the pandemic response – has sparked a vigorous debate within and beyond the WTO, and is a high priority for technical assistance and policy support for WTO members. This page gives access to background information and current WTO documents (including members’ proposals) on this urgent question.
From the beginning of the pandemic, the pressing need was clear for both the development of new vaccines and treatments, and access to these medicines for all – a global challenge unprecedented in both scope and urgency.
Governments and other stakeholders have therefore focused on how innovation mechanisms and tools for enhancing access to medical technologies can contribute to the pandemic response, well beyond a reliance on “business as usual”. This has led to a range of initiatives by international organizations, governments and private actors for the voluntary sharing, pooling or non-assertion of IP rights (IPRs), responding to the spirit of collaboration that dominates the global effort to tackle the pandemic. The WTO has actively participated in this collaborative effort, including through a multilateral leaders' task force on COVID-19 and high level trilateral cooperation with the WHO and WIPO.
A range of pro-health policy options and interventions are also available for WTO members under the TRIPS Agreement, as implemented in domestic law.
Transparency and the availability of up-to-date information on IP and COVID-19 respond to an immediate and critical need. They contribute to the empirical basis that is essential for policy-making in a rapidly evolving trade landscape in the mutual interest of all stakeholders, including governments and economic operators.
In furtherance of this objective, the following sections provide access to useful WTO and other resources that specifically address the interface between IPRs and COVID-19, as well as to the work of the TRIPS Council
Work of the TRIPS Council
Members have exchanged information and experiences relating to IP measures taken in the context of COVID-19 at the TRIPS Council, and have considered members’ proposals. The interface between IPRs and COVID-19 has been considered in TRIPS Council meetings since July 2020, supported by communications to the TRIPS Council.back to top
This dedicated WTO web portal provides up-to-date trade-related information, including trade forecasts and trackers, members' proposals and measures taken in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, reports and studies, materials related to information-sharing sessions, and other details regarding the multilateral trading system's response to the pandemic.
The WTO Secretariat has compiled a non-exhaustive list of COVID-19-related measures regarding trade-related IPRs from official sources and confirmed with WTO members concerned. It represents an informal situation report and an attempt to provide transparency with respect to measures regarding trade-related IPRs taken by WTO members in the context of the COVID-19 crisis. The list is regularly updated.
- The TRIPS Agreement and COVID-19 (15 October 2020)
This note discusses the role and some of the key contributions that the global IP system, including its policy options and flexibilities as implemented in domestic law, can make to address COVID-19. It also provides an overview of measures taken by member
- How WTO members have used trade measures to expedite access to COVID-19 critical medical goods and services (18 September 2020)
This note on access to COVID-19 critical medical goods and services includes information on using IPRs and policy tools to facilitate innovation in and access to COVID-19-related technologies.
- Developing and delivering COVID-19 vaccines around the world (22 December 2020)
This note looks at issues with trade impact and discusses trade policy choices, including in the area of intellectual property rights, that may be considered along the vaccine value chain to support access to COVID-19 vaccines.
An integrated health, trade and IP approach to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic
A standalone section on COVID-19 was first launched in the 2020 study jointly published by the World Health Organization (WHO), World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and WTO, Promoting Access to Medical Technologies and Innovation: Intersections between public health, intellectual property and trade (second edition). It maps the multiple challenges posed by the pandemic in relation to the integrated health, trade and IP policy frameworks set out in the study. The WHO, WIPO, and WTO have jointly committed to regularly updating this section. The first update of the COVID-19 insert was published in 2021, and a second in 2023.
- Download publication (Update 17 May 2023)
- Download publication (Update 30 August 2021)
- Download publication (2020)
Inventory of COVID-19 information resources
A non-exhaustive inventory compiled by the WTO Secretariat of over 70 information resources managed by international organizations, non-governmental organizations, academics and the private sector providing information and data on a wide range of topics relating to COVID-19, including vaccines, government procurement, cases, diagnostics, therapeutics and IP-related issues.
- Innovation and patenting activities of COVID-19 vaccines in WTO members: Analytical review of Medicines Patent Pool (MPP) COVID-19 vaccines patent landscape (VaxPal) (10 February 2022)
This working paper provides a statistical analysis of 74 patent families which cover subject matter relating to ten COVID-19 vaccines. These vaccines accounted for 99% of global COVID‑19 vaccine production as of 31 December 2021.
This working paper provides an overview of the patent landscape of medical treatments and technologies related to COVID-19, and of the patent status of two investigational medical treatments: remdesivir and lopinavir/ritonavir. It presents various patent-related actions taken by legislators, policymakers, industry sectors and civil society organizations in members since the outbreak. Furthermore, it elaborates on patent-related policy options provided by the TRIPS Agreement, and members' national implementation and utilization of these options in their response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
WIPO has made available various tools and sources of information as part of its response to COVID-19.
The WHO has compiled advice, technical guidance, research, information on vaccines, treatments, and tests, a statistical dashboard, and other materials related to its response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
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