Participating countries attending the 12th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Geneva, Switzerland reached an agreement on 17 June 2022 to partially waive intellectual property restrictions on the manufacture and production of COVID-19 vaccines for the next five years. The partial waiver provides that developing nations may authorise the use of the subject matter of a patent without having to make efforts to obtain authorisation from the right holder before granting such authorisation, subject to payment of adequate renumeration to the rights holder, which may be determined taking into account any not-for-profit purpose of vaccine production.

Furthermore, under the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement, a vaccine manufacturer so authorized would not be allowed to export its vaccines in bulk to another country, requiring the majority of vaccines produced to be retained by the manufacturing country. The waiver provides, however, that developing countries may waive this restriction too, to export vaccines in bulk to other developing countries under any initiative to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, subject to an undertaking by the destination country not to re-export such vaccines.

The waiver, however, does not include diagnostics and therapeutics. A final decision will be made in six months as to whether to apply a waiver on the production and supply of diagnostics and therapeutics.

A TRIPS waiver for COVID-19 treatment was first proposed in 2020 by South Africa and India and was supported by over 100 countries.

Charleen Rupnarain
Senior Associate | Patent Attorney