The TRIPS Waiver

Document No: PUB 20R/22 Posted: 06 March 2023

The snappily named Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (or TRIPS for short as the full name hardly trips off the tongue) is a World Trade Organization (WTO) agreement badged as “the most comprehensive multilateral agreement on intellectual property to date”. It was signed in 1994 and is a “minimum standards” agreement which sets a baseline for IP protection; Members are able to provide more comprehensive protection if they wish and under certain circumstances flexibilities to the minimum standards are permitted.

This agreement made headlines across the world in 2021 following proposals first tabled by India and South Africa at the WTO that a waiver should be agreed enabling Members to have more flexibility than currently allowed under TRIPS in respect of vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics for the treatment or prevention of COVID-19. I finished my 2021 article on this matter with the following words: It remains to be seen whether next year’s IP Federation Review article is talking about the impact of the introduction of a waiver or not – watch this space!”