By Peter Ungphakorn
POSTED OCTOBER 4, 2022 | UPDATED AS INDICATED
The waiver on patent protection for COVID-19 vaccines was agreed at the WTO Ministerial Conference on June 17, 2022. The text with brief explanations is here. The waiver is not an obligation. Countries can choose to suspend certain patent rights if they want.
Much of the work after the Ministerial Conference results from a provision for WTO members to decide within six months (by December 17, 2022) whether or not to expand the waiver to include COVID-19 tests and treatments:
“No later than six months from the date of this Decision, Members will decide on its extension to cover the production and supply of COVID-19 diagnostics and therapeutics”
Updates on the latest developments will be added here, with links to new documents and news items. That will include any notifications from countries changing their laws to apply the waiver. So far there are none.
- December 20, 2022 — The General Council agrees on postponing the deadline with no date set, but to be reconsidered in the Spring
- December 19, 2022 — The General Council postpones a decision on postponing the deadline
- December 17, 2022 — deadline for expansion decision missed, so far no country has moved to use the vaccine patent waiver agreed in June
- December 16, 2022 — formal meeting: chair’s draft binned, replaced by short paragraph postponing the deadline
- December 7, 2022 — chair’s draft factual report circulated
- December 6, 2022 — informal meeting discusses proponents’ draft and postponing deadline
- December 5–6, 2022 — US announces it will need time to consult stakeholders
- November 2, 2022 — informal meeting, with members’ positions on expanding the waiver to tests and treatments crystallised into three groups
- July 6, 2022 — first meeting after the vaccine patent waiver decision, followed by stock-taking and informal meetings
(TRIPS = trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights, the official description of intellectual property issues that are discussed in the WTO — they should be “trade-related” issues)