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Symposium: The TRIPS waiver: IP, Access to Essential Medicines, and the Coronavirus

About this event

This symposium explores the legal and political debate over access to essential medicines during the coronavirus public health crisis.

This symposium on The TRIPS Waiver: Intellectual Property , Access to Essential Medicines, and the Coronavirus is an in-person research workshop.  Registration is only required for physical attendees of the event in Brisbane.


This research workshop focuses upon the geopolitical debate over access to essential medicines during the coronavirus public health crisis. This event brings together researchers, experts and scholars working in the field of access to essential medicines – ranging through the disciplines of intellectual property, public health law, human rights, international law, and trade law.

There has been a remarkable effort to engage in research and development of vaccines, treatments, and diagnostics in response to the coronavirus public health crisis. Yet, there has been global concern over ‘vaccine nationalism’, ‘vaccine inequity’, ‘vaccine hoarding’, and ‘vaccine apartheid’ during the public health crisis. Civil society organisations – such as the People’s Vaccine Alliance Oxfam, MSF, Human Rights Watch, and Universities Allied for Essential Medicines – and the labor movement of unions have lobbied for a People’s Vaccine. As a result of a concern about the devastating impact of COVID-19, South Africa and India have put forward a proposal for a TRIPS Waiver in respect of intellectual property and technologies, such as vaccines, treatments, and diagnostics. Over a hundred countries have thus far supported the proposal for a TRIPS Waiver.

After taking an ‘America First’ approach under the Trump Administration, the United States Government under the Biden Administration has revised the national position and supported a TRIPS Waiver for Vaccines. After some deliberation, the governments of New Zealand and Australia have supported this option. Key European nations – such as Germany – have resisted the adoption of a TRIPS Waiver. The European Union has put forward a counter-proposal to the TRIPS Waiver – focusing on intellectual property flexibilities. A number of other countries such as the United Kingdom have been reluctant to support a TRIPS Waiver. There also remain a few nations – like Canada – which have been uncommitted to a position in the geopolitical debate over the TRIPS Waiver. Pharmaceutical companies, biotechnology developers, and medical diagnostics firms have lobbying against a TRIPS Waiver.

This event will also explore the key disciplines of intellectual property – including patent law, trade mark law, copyright law, and related rights, such as confidential information, trade secrets, and database protection. There will be a strong focus upon public health law, policy and institutions. There will also be a larger consideration of international law – particularly trade-related agreements, such as the TRIPS Agreement, the Doha Declaration, the WTO General Council Decision, and the TRIPS Waiver. There will also be a consideration of the role of international institutions during the coronavirus crisis – such as UNAIDS, the World Health Organization, the World Trade Organization, and the World Intellectual Property Organization.

This research workshop will also consider the regulation of data and information in respect of coronavirus. There will be a discussion of vaccine hesitancy, COVID-19 misinformation, and COVID-19 fraud. In its consideration of the ‘info-demic’, the event will draw upon the disciplines of health law, consumer protection, media regulation, and criminal law.

This event is hosted by the Australian Centre for Health Law Research (ACHLR) – based at the QUT Faculty of Business and Law. This event is part of the Centre’s research activity in respect of the legal, ethical, and public policy dimensions of the coronavirus.


This event will be subject to QUT’s management plans and rules in light of COVID-19. There will be a limited physical audience for this event – capped at 30 people. Registrations are only required for the physical attendance of the event.

This event is a hybrid event – with live physical presentations by Queensland-based speakers, supplemented by pre-recorded presentations by interstate and international speakers.

The physical presentations will be recorded by the AV Unit of QUT, and made available afterwards. A few interstate and international speakers will be delivering their talks by video.

There will be light catering at the physical event.


QUT Welcome to Country


Session 1 – Pandemics and Public Health Emergencies (9:00 am – 10:30 am)

9:00 am – 9:20 am

Unmasked: The Politics of Pandemics

Bill Bowtell (by video)

9:20 am – 9:40 am

Themes and Motifs from a Pandemic: The Independent Panel on Pandemic Preparedness

Associate Professor Wendy Bonython (Bond University)

9:40 am – 10:00 am

The Two Track Approach to Revise the International Health Regulations and the Proposed Pandemic Treaty (or Can We Have Our Cake and Eat it Too?)

Professor Sara Davies (Griffith University)

Morning Tea Break (10:30 am – 11:00 am)

Session 2 – COVID-19, Patent Law, and the TRIPS Waiver (11 am – 12:30 pm)

11:00 am – 11:20 am

The Proposal of India and South Africa for a TRIPS Waiver

Dr Muhammad Zaheer Abbas (QUT)

11:20 am – 11:40 am

A TRIPS Waiver for Vaccines: President Joe Biden, Intellectual Property, Access to Essential Medicines, and the Coronavirus COVID-19

Professor Matthew Rimmer (QUT)

11:40 pm – 12:00 pm

Climate Change Technology and the WTO: Will a TRIPS Waiver Support Technology Transfer?

Associate Professor Felicity Deane (QUT)

Lunch Break (12:30 pm – 1:30 pm)

Session 3 – Comparative Debates about the TRIPS Waiver (12:30 pm – 1:30 pm)

12:30 pm – 12:50 pm

The EU Counter-Proposal to the TRIPS Waiver

Dr Aisling McMahon (Maynooth University, Ireland) (by video)

12:50 pm – 1:10 pm

The UAEM Campaign to Free the Vaccine

Dr Jennifer Nguyen and Declan Sakuls (UAEM North America) (by video)

1:10 pm – 1:30 pm

The New Zealand Debate about the TRIPS Waiver

Edward Miller (by video)

Session 4 COVID-19, Consumer Protection, and Trademark Law (1:30 pm – 3:00 pm)

1:30 pm – 1:50 pm

Vaccine Hesitancy and COVID-19 Misinformation

Samuel Roach (QUT)

1:50 pm – 2:10 pm

COVID Snails in Policy Bottles: Trust, Regulation and Therapeutics

Associate Professor Bruce Arnold (University of Canberra)

2:10 pm – 2:30 pm

COVID-19 Fraud

Associate Professor Cassandra Cross (QUT)

Afternoon Tea Break (3:00 pm – 3:30 pm)

Session 5 – COVID-19, Trade Secrets, and Data Protection (3:30 pm – 5:00 pm)

3:30 pm – 3:50 pm

TRIPS and the Evil Empire: What would Darth Vader Say?

Professor Charles Lawson (Griffith University)

3:50 pm – 4:10 pm

Should the TRIPS Waiver apply to trade secrets?

Teddy Henriksen (University of the Sunshine Coast)

4:10 pm – 4:30 pm

A Tale of Two Coronaviruses – Data Sharing During Infectious Disease Emergencies

Dr Michelle Rourke (Griffith University)


4:30 pm – 4:50 pm

Beyond The TRIPS Waiver

Professor Natalie Stoianoff (UTS) (by video)

4:50 pm – 5:10 pm

The Fall of the Innovation Empire and its Possible Rise through Open Science

Professor Richard Gold (McGill University, Canada) (by video)


 Picture Credit: Oxfam, People’s Vaccine Campaign (but it should be noted that this is not an Oxfam event).

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