Failing to approve the COVID-19 waiver for equitable access to medicines under the Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement could dent global economic output by trillions of dollars at the cost of protecting vaccine makers’ business worth just $30-40 billion.
- India and South Africa have jointly moved a proposal at the WTO’s TRIPS council for a waiver to help more countries get access to medicines and vaccines during the pandemic.
- Fifty-seven WTO members have backed the proposal, but the EU, U.S., Japan and Canada have opposed the idea stressing the importance of intellectual property for innovation.
What are “intellectual property rights”?
- Intellectual property rights can be defined as the rights given to people over the creations of their minds.
- They usually give the creator an exclusive right over the use of his/her creations for a certain period of time.
- They are traditionally divided into two main categories:
- Copyright and rights related to copyright: i.e. rights granted to authors of literary and artistic works, and the rights of performers, producers of phonograms and broadcasting organizations. The main purpose of protection of copyright and related rights is to encourage and reward creative work.
- Industrial property: This includes the protection of distinctive signs such as trademarks and geographical indications, and industrial property protected primarily to stimulate innovation, design and the creation of technology. In this category fall invention (protected by patents), industrial designs and trade secrets.
What is TRIPS?
- The WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) is the most comprehensive multilateral agreement on intellectual property (IP).
- It plays a central role in facilitating trade in knowledge and creativity, in resolving trade disputes over IP, and in assuring WTO members the latitude to achieve their domestic policy objectives.
- It frames the IP system in terms of innovation, technology transfer and public welfare.
- The Agreement is a legal recognition of the significance of links between IP and trade and the need for a balanced IP system.