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University of Houston law professor Sapna Kumar. Courtesy photo

The World Trade Organization’s Council on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights is meeting Friday to consider a proposal that would allow member states to broadly waive IP rights in COVID-19 vaccines and therapies. The waiver would cover not only patent rights but also manufacturing know-how that pharmaceutical companies consider trade secrets. The proposal is supported by India, which is in the grip of a severe COVID-19 crisis, as well as South Africa and many other low- and middle-income countries. The United States and the European Union are among those opposed, although the Biden administration appears to be pressuring drug companies toward some sort of compromise. (The Biden administration announced late Wednesday it would send $100 million in supplies to India, including its order of AstraZeneca vaccine material.)

It’s an extremely complex issue, so we reached out to University of Houston law professor Sapna Kumar, who teaches U.S. and international patent law and has written on the subject, to walk us through the challenges of the proposal. This conversation has been lightly edited for length and clarity

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Scott Graham

Scott Graham focuses on intellectual property and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. He writes ALM's Skilled in the Art IP briefing. Contact him at [email protected]

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