MSF supports India and South Africa ask to waive COVID-19 patent rights

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COVID-19 and IP

MSF supports India and South Africa ask to waive COVID-19 patent rights
Press Release 7 Oct 2020
Geneva – In a landmark move, India and South Africa on 2 October asked the World Trade Organization (WTO) to allow all countries to choose to neither grant nor enforce patents and other intellectual property (IP) related to COVID-19 drugs, vaccines, diagnostics and other technologies for the duration of the pandemic, until global herd immunity is achieved. This bold step is akin to efforts by governments nearly 20 years ago, which spearheaded the use of affordable generic HIV/AIDS medicines, and, if approved, could signal a major turning point in countries’ response to the pandemic, according to Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF).

In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, MSF called on all governments to support this waiver request at the WTO, whose TRIPS Council (Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights Agreement) is meeting on 15 October to start building consensus on the issue.

“A global pandemic is no time for business-as-usual, and there is no place for patents or corporate profiteering as long as the world is faced with the threat of COVID-19,” said Leena Menghaney, South Asia Head of MSF’s Access Campaign. “During the pandemic, treatment providers and governments have had to grapple with intellectual property barriers to essential products such as masks, ventilator valves and reagents for test kits.”

“With this bold action, India and South Africa have shown that governments want to be back in the driver’s seat when it comes to ensuring all people can have access to needed COVID-19 medical products, medicines and vaccines, so that more lives can be saved,” said Menghaney.

WTO member countries can seek a waiver from certain obligations in WTO treaties under exceptional circumstances. If members agree on the waiver, countries can choose not to grant or enforce IP (patents, industrial designs, copyright and trade secrets) related to all COVID-19 medical products and technologies…