The latest in a series of proposals brought by India and South Africa to the World Trade Organization (WTO), backed by over 100 countries, to temporarily suspend COVID-19 vaccine patents was blocked by western powers, namely the United States, United Kingdom, and the European Union. The patents that give monopoly rights over the manufacture and sale of drugs like the COVID-19 vaccines are protected globally by The Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), signed in 1994 by the WTO.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday warned the World Trade Organization's new director-general not to "distract" herself with proposals to suspend global intellectual property rules in order to distribute COVID-19 vaccines around the world. Patrick Kilbride, senior vice president of the Global Innovation Policy Center at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, told the WTO to recognize how important "transparent and predictable intellectual property rights" have been in spurring collaborative efforts to develop vaccines. Kilbride's comments came just a day after the trade body's new director-general, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, issued her first address to the WTO's General Council.