Covid19 has taken a toll on the world. Everyone has been waiting for the Covid19 vaccines. And the vaccine itself has come up with thousands of questions based on its efficacy, rights, and others. The first and foremost question lies in the efficacy of vaccines. The virus has been mutating since its inception and in such conditions making a vaccine effective on all of them is very difficult. Another question that arises with the vaccines is their rights, basically the patent rights on the vaccine.
What are IP rights?
Intellectual Property rights vary from country to country. According to WTO, intellectual property rights are given to the people for their creations. They are basically meant to protect the inventor’s/ creator’s rights on their invention. The creations may include a product, artistic expressions, ideas, etc. These are covered by copyrights, patents, and trademarks. All of which are governed by various country-specific laws. A WTO (World Trade Organization) agreement on this subject is in place since 1995, Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).
Intellectual Property Rights gives exclusiveness to certain products or art. The owner of that creation is entitled to all the rights including selling and distributing of that particular creation.
Covid19 vaccine and its IP waiver
The campaign was initiated by India and South Africa regarding waiving the patent rights from the Covid19 vaccine. Also, requests were made for other therapeutics, diagnostics, and other equipment related to Covid19 treatment. The USA backed the request made by South Africa and India. It was suggested that the waiver would provide a space for collective research and collaborative development. It would also exempt WTO members from being sued by other member countries of the TRIPS agreement. While it would be an option for the countries to opt for the waiver, the agreement would last for three years from the date of enactment. The waiver would not completely remove all the intellectual property rights, instead, it would be at the discretion of the member countries to do that.
This was proposed to help the low and middle-income countries. As we can see now, most of the low-income countries are struggling to vaccinate their population. The interesting thing is, these countries themselves have such a large population that if they are not vaccinated, others would keep suffering from the virus. The countries that we are talking about are not capable of making vaccines on their own. They rely or rather don’t have any other option than to rely on bigger countries to provide them with vaccines. But they may produce the vaccine if authority is transferred to them. If the countries like the USA, India, UK, etc. who are producing vaccines could waive some of the rights so that these countries could produce them, it would prove to be beneficial for a huge population.
Organizations including World Bank, European Union, and countries like Japan, UK have opposed the idea of an Intellectual Property Rights waiver. They have said that this could pose a threat to innovation. They’ve said that such a waiver is not the right option to vaccinate people. These countries have been suggesting the export of vaccines from the countries like the USA and the UK who have the manpower and capital to produce vaccines at a large scale. But they fail to understand that the poor or the low-income countries would not have the money to buy them and if the rights are waived, maybe they could produce them in their countries which would give employment to their people as well as reduce the cost of production.
Also, many countries have suggested that this waiver could probably reduce the cost of production due to cheap labor available in these low, middle-income countries.
The negotiations and talks on this issue are yet to be made. We all know that this could be possible only with the backing of strong nations like the USA, the UK, and organizations like the World Bank and the European Union. These are the countries that have actual technology and caliber for making and inventing vaccines. India is already supporting the initiative. We have made our own vaccines which are completely reliable and accepted by the world.
Though India has been exporting vaccines to these nations, we have our own needs and mass exportation can severely affect the requirement of our country. Thus, waiving IP rights for the sake of humanity is a good option when the whole world is trying to come out of the pandemic. While it is also important to protect the innovation and creation of the scientists, a way out of it can be found out through a healthy dialogue between the member countries