The Covid-19 pandemic, the greatest global health crisis of our times, has highlighted profound inequities in the manufacture and supply of diagnostics, treatments, and vaccines to health care systems worldwide. Crucially, it has revealed structural fault lines in the international intellectual property (IP) architecture. This has strained relations between those who assert that the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights (IPRs) are essential components for future investment and innovation, and those who argue that IPRs relevant to healthcare technologies necessary to save lives during the pandemic should be temporarily set aside, with IP-protected health care products available unhindered by the existence of associated IPRs. Against the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic response, this paper adopts a human rights approach to reappraise the relationship between IPRs and access to health care technologies. It argues that, while tensions between IPRs as property rights, on the one hand, and the right to health as a human right on the other are not new, a human rights approach to IPRs is an important and valuable conceptual tool as we re-evaluate the IP response to the Covid-19 pandemic. It argues that a human rights approach can enable a fundamental rethinking of the relationship between IP, innovation and access, for the Covid-19 pandemic response and inform debates about future pandemic preparedness.
Matthews, Duncan, Reappraising the Relationship between Intellectual Property Rights and Human Rights: A COVID-19 Pandemic Response (September 6, 2021). Queen Mary Law Research Paper No 366/2021.