University of Nottingham Commercial Law Centre

Vaccine access and Covid waiver in light of overlapping commitments outside TRIPS

MS Teams
Wednesday 23rd March 2022 (17:00-18:00)

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Speakers: Professor Henning Grosse Ruse Khan, University of Cambridge and Dr Federica Paddeu, University of Cambridge 

Organiser/Chair: Professor Estelle Derclaye


Despite statements that ‘no-one is safe until everyone is safe', there are severe inequalities for access to vaccines and other health technologies for the prevention, treatment or containment of Covid-19 around the world. Within the context of international protection of intellectual property (IP) rights, current debates concern the impact of commitments to protect in particular patents and regulatory test data on the ability of countries to facilitate access to pandemic related health technologies. 

In the World Trade Organisation, Members are negotiating a temporary Waiver concerning obligations to implement or apply minimum standards to protect and enforce various IP rights. Rather than reviewing the highly contested policy question whether the Waiver will improve vaccine equality, this presentation focuses on the ability of WTO Members to implement and benefit from a TRIPS Waiver if it would find consensus in the WTO. From an international law perspective, this is primarily a question of commitments to protect IP rights WTO Members have under other treaties, in particular free trade agreements (FTAs) and bilateral investment treaties (BITs).

The presentation looks at these overlapping commitments, and considers defences within FTAs and BITs, as well as general international law. It aims to show that while especially ’TRIPS-plus’ commitments and investment protection for IP rights may pose hurdles to implement a TRIPS Waiver, in most cases, various treaty-internal and general defences will allow WTO Members to take measures implementing the Waiver. 

University of Nottingham Commercial Law Centre

University of Nottingham
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Nottingham, NG7 2RD