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Waiving intellectual property protection for COVID-19 vaccines

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Waiving intellectual property protection for COVID-19 vaccines

Waiving intellectual property protection for COVID-19 vaccines

  • Recently, the US has given its support forwaiving the intellectual property protection for COVID-19vaccines, given the extraordinary circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The IP waiver might open up space for production of COVID-19 vaccines with emergency use authorisations (EUA) — such as those developed by Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Novavax, Johnson & Johnson and Bharat Biotech — on a larger scale in middle-income countries. .
  • Most production is currently concentrated in high-income countries; Production by middle-income countries is taking place through licensing or technology transfer agreements.
  • First, India and South Africa urged the World Trade Organization in October 2020 to exempt certain provisions of the trade-related aspects of the Intellectual Property Rights-TRIPS Agreement. That proposal had, however, called for a waiver on all COVID interventions, including testing diagnostics and novel therapeutics, So that all countries have access to cheap medical products to deal with COVID-19.
  • India and South Africa had asked the TRIPS Council to recommend, “as early as possible”, a waiver on the implementation, application and enforcement of four sections in the second part of the agreement. These sections — 1, 4, 5, and 7 — pertain to copyright and related rights, industrial designs, patents, and the protection of undisclosed information. The proposal had said that developing countries “especially”, may face institutional and legal difficulties when using flexibilities available in the TRIPS Agreement.

What are patents and ‘intellectual property rights’?

  • A patent is a strong intellectual property right. It is a specific monopoly granted by the government of a country for a certain time to the inventor of invention. In order to prevent someone from copying the invention, it provides for an enforceable legal right.
  • Patents are mainly of two types: Process Patents and Product Patents.

Patent Regime in India:

  • Since the 1970s, ‘process patents’ have been prevalent in India in place of ‘product patents’, due to which, India has become an important producer of generic drugs globally. In the 1990s, companies such as Cipla were allowed to provide anti-HIV drugs to Africa.
  • But due to the obligations set out under the TRIPS agreement, India had to amend the Patents Act in the year 2005, and implement a ‘product patent’ regime in the pharma, chemical, and biotech sectors.

Source: The Hindu

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