ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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An Indian Perspective

COVID-19 and IPR Waiver

The Government of India is seeking an intellectual property rights waiver under Sections 1 (copyright and related rights), 4 (industrial designs), 5 (patents), and 7 (protection of undisclosed information) of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights. Seeking an IPR waiver is based on the presumption that it will allow more firms to manufacture vaccines and medicines, thereby enhancing their availability at a cheaper price. However, IPR waivers for COVID-19 vaccines and medicines are unlikely to make any difference. A more effective approach is to use compulsory licences, and reduce tariffs and non-tariff measures.

 

The 6th of May 2021 will go down in history as a day that India would love to forget about. On that day, India reported 4,14,433 new COVID-19 cases, accounting for one in every two infections and one in every four deaths recorded worldwide (Our World in Data 2021). The scale and extent of the second wave of the pandemic took Indian policymakers by surprise. Not long before, on 28 January 2021, in his address to the Davos Dialogue, World Economic Forum, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced that India had successfully controlled COVID-19. The vaccine shortage, inevitable in a country of India’s size in the short run, was worsened by the second wave. In April 2021, the Serum Institute of India (SII) and Bharat Biotech, India’s only two vaccine manufacturers, were producing around 3 million vaccine doses per day. To cover half the eligible population (850 million Indians above 18 years of age) by 31 October 2021, there is, however, a requirement to manufacture 4.6 million doses per day (Khan and Razvi 2021).

As a panacea for this supply shortage, India alongside South Africa is seeking for a waiver of the intellectual property rights (IPR) at the World Trade Organization (WTO). The Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) provisions require all WTO members to grant patents with a minimum term of 20 years for inventions in all fields of technology.1 In this article, we look at the merit of such an appeal to enhance the supply of COVID-19 vaccines and medicines, and reduce their imminent shortage.

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Updated On : 30th Aug, 2021

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