In response to the US government’s announcement of its support for waiving intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines, Amnesty International’s Eve Geddie, Director of Amnesty International’s EU Office said:
Today, Europe wakes up to a new political reality that its position on hoarding the rights to make COVID-19 vaccines is now untenable. It is time for Europe to put everyone’s health and human rights before private profit.Eve Geddie, Director of Amnesty International's EU Office
“EU leaders must now join the global effort to save countless lives around the world by supporting the waiving of intellectual property protections for COVID-19 vaccines, and ensuring companies share their know-how, so they can be produced with the speed and scale needed. Vaccines for all are now in sight, and the world has their eyes firmly on EU leaders to take this bold step.”
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In October 2020, India and South Africa requested a waiver that would allow countries to neither grant nor enforce patents and other specific intellectual property rights related to COVID-19 products until global herd immunity is achieved. A significant number of lower- and middle-income countries supported this proposal. Most high-income countries including the EU and its member States opposed it. The European Union is a member of the WTO, and its member states are also WTO members in their own right. The European Commission represents the EU at WTO meetings.
If agreed, the waiver would suspend the implementation, application and enforcement of certain intellectual property rights, such as patents on pharmaceutical products, and facilitate the development and manufacture of more and lower-cost COVID-19 diagnostics, treatments and vaccines.
International human rights standards and trade rules are clear that protecting intellectual property must never come at the expense of public health.
The WTO’s Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) sets out minimum standards for many forms of intellectual property that are pertinent to pharmaceutical companies, such as copyrights, trademarks, patents, undisclosed information (including trade secrets and test data) and anti-competitive practices.