intellectual property

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.

Introduction

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 focussed 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.

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.

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WTO resources

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.

COVID-19 and world trade

An integrated health, trade and IP approach to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic

A standalone section on COVID-19 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), maps the multiple challenges posed by the pandemic in relation to the integrated health, trade and IP policy frameworks set out in the study.

Working Paper: Patent-related actions taken in WTO members in response to the COVID-19 pandemic

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.

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Other resources

WIPO's COVID-19 response

WIPO has made available various tools and sources of information as part of its response to COVID-19.


Other useful links

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