The TRIPS Waiver: Intellectual Property, Access to Essential Medicines, and the Coronavirus COVID-19

The TRIPS Waiver: Intellectual Property, Access to Essential Medicines, and the Coronavirus COVID-19 Research Symposium, hosted by the Australian Centre for Health Law Research (ACHLR)  and co-ordinated by Professor Matthew Rimmer, was held on the 10 December 2021. The symposium was part of ACHLR’s research activity in respect of the legal, ethical, and public policy dimensions of the coronavirus COVID-19.


This research event focused upon the geopolitical debate over access to essential medicines during the coronavirus public health crisis. The event brought 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. Pharmaceutical companies, biotechnology developers, and medical diagnostics firms have been lobbying against a TRIPS Waiver.

The event also explored 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 was also the 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. Additionally, 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.

The event was a hybrid event, with live presentations by Queensland-based speakers, supplemented by pre-recorded presentations by interstate and international speakers.


You can access all the presentations from the research symposium on the ACHLR website.

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