From Necessity to Flexibility: A Reflection on the Negotiations for a TRIPS Waiver for Covid-19 Vaccines and Treatments

Bryan Mercurio, Pratyush Nath Upreti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)
217 Downloads (Pure)


This article critically examines the proposed waiver of intellectual property (IP) rights for COVID-19 vaccines under the World Trade Organization Agreement's Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), which was initiated in October 2020 when the pandemic raged and vaccines were unavailable. However, the landscape has now changed and the waiver may no longer be necessary. The Outcome Document, introduced in the TRIPS Council in May 2022, along with Ministerial Decision of June 2022 recognizes this by focusing on easing the requirements to use TRIPS-flexibilities to accomplish wider and cheaper access. In so doing, the Ministerial Decision reinforces the notion that TRIPS flexibilities can be a useful part of the policy toolkit, even in times of crisis. After providing an overview of the context and outlining justifications for the waiver proposal, the article analyses and identifies key implications and possible effects of the Ministerial Decision. The article concludes that while the Document may not be a perfect solution to the issue of access to vaccines, flexible application of TRIPS-flexibilities is a better resolution in the current environment, especially given the need for further innovation to combat COVID-19 and future pandemics.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)633-649
Number of pages17
JournalWorld Trade Review
Issue number5
Early online date17 Aug 2022
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © The Author(s), 2022. Published by Cambridge University Press.


  • COVID-19
  • Intellectual property rights
  • pharmaceutical patents
  • Public health
  • TRIPS flexibilities
  • TRIPS waiver
  • vaccines

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Political Science and International Relations
  • Law


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