Tue 12th Jul 2022

World Trade Organization agrees partial patent waiver for Covid-19 vaccines

On 17 June 2022, members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) reached an agreement to suspend patent protection for the production and supply of Covid-19 vaccines with the aim of increasing access to Covid-19 vaccines in developing countries.

Specifically, developing country members may authorise the use of the subject-matter of a relevant patent for the production and supply of Covid-19 vaccines without the consent of the patent proprietor, to the extent necessary to address the Covid-19 pandemic. The agreement reinforces existing provisions of compulsory licensing.


The WTO agreement which can be read here, will be in place for five years, after which it may be extended depending on the circumstances at that time. Under the terms of the agreement, the WTO members have a further six months to decide whether or not to extend the measures to the cover production and supply of Covid-19 diagnostics and therapeutics.


The agreement has been received with criticism. In particular, many have taken the view that there are no longer constraints on the actual supply of vaccines, but rather, infrastructure deficiencies (e.g. in testing and distribution capacity) exist in developing countries which need to be addressed with greater urgency.


The agreement has also received criticism from vaccine manufacturers such as Moderna Inc., Pfizer Inc. and AstraZeneca Plc who believe that dilution of their patent rights may discourage investment and suppress innovation.


This briefing is for general information purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for legal advice relating to your particular circumstances. We can discuss specific issues and facts on an individual basis. Please note that the law may have changed since the day this was first published in July 2022.


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