An ethico-legal assessment of intellectual property rights and their effect on COVID-19 vaccine distribution: an Australian case study

James Scheibner, Jane Nielsen, Dianne Nicol

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

This article posits that Australia, as an affluent country with increasing capacity to manufacture vaccines, has an obligation to assist its regional (and global) counterparts in implementing vaccination programs that protect their populations. First, the article explores the capacity of high-income nations to meet their obligations, assist their neighbours and refrain from vaccine nationalism. This inquiry involves an analysis of the optimal ethical strategy for distributing vaccines globally, and the role that Australia might play in this distribution strategy. Secondly, the article examines the intellectual property landscape for vaccines in Australia, focusing on the patents that cover vaccine compositions and manufacturing techniques (recognizing the potential for know-how and access to materials as well as patents to affect manufacturing capacity). This article then discusses the strategies the Australian Government has at its disposal to counter potential intellectual property impediments whilst complying with existing obligations under the Agreement on Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), as an ethically appropriate response to the pandemic. This article also considers whether a so-called TRIPS waiver could provide better options and concludes that the challenge of compelling disclosure of know-how remains.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberlsac020
Number of pages36
JournalJournal of Law and the Biosciences
Volume9
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2022

Keywords

  • COVID-19
  • vaccines
  • innovation
  • patents
  • trade secrets
  • ethics

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