WHO lends support to IP-waiver proposal from South Africa, India

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has lent its support to a proposal from South Africa and India to the World Trade Organization (WTO) seeking a waiver on certain intellectual property (IP) provisions that could come in the way of access to medicines, vaccines and devices developed to tackle the novel coronavirus.

The support comes even as the recently-concluded TRIPS Council meeting failed to reach a consensus on the issue, setting it up for informal consultations for resolution by the year-end. The TRIPS Council is responsible for implementing the TRIPS (Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) agreement.

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Using the provisions of Article IX of the Marrakesh Agreement Establishing the WTO, the proposal makes a request to the General Council of the WTO, to waive the implementation, application, and enforcement of four forms of IPRs covered by the TRIPS Agreement for some years. These forms of IPRs mentioned in the proposal are, copyright and related rights, industrial designs, patents, and trade secrets, for the containment or treatment of COVID-19. It should be noted here that the waiver of legal obligations under WTO agreement is not new. Since 1995, nine waivers were granted and of these, three were from TRIPS obligations.

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