​The Philippines has voiced its support for the October 2020 proposal by India and South Africa for a brief waiver of the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS) agreement with regards to intellectual property relating to covid-19. A government spokesperson summarised as follows: "Like all developing countries, we want vaccine equality, and one way to do that is via a TRIPS waiver." This is characteristic of the sentiment in South East Asia; see, for example, "Thailand rejects covid-19 drug granted by European Patent Office and US Patent and Trademark Office".

Figure 1: the Red Cross carrying out a covid-19 test in the Philippines

The proposal is for IP rights relating to covid-19 to be suspended until widespread vaccination is in place globally, and the majority of the world's population has developed immunity. Dr Julie Caguiat of the Philippine's Citizens Urgent Response to End Covid-19 believes that this will increase vaccine supply without burying the Philippines in debt during a time of public emergency. Dr Joshua San Pedro of the Coalition for the People's Right to Health added that while the Philippines might have the capacity to create immunisations, diagnostics and drugs, it lacks licences for protected innovation rights in key areas. In that vein, the TRIPS waiver would clear the landscape and allow freedom to operate.

Vaccines are traditionally thought of as an injection that prevents a disease. However, covid-19 vaccines are not designed to prevent any disease, but instead reduce the suffering or impact of the virus on the human body. Such vaccines are not the only intellectual property under debate. There are a growing number of patents covering the treatment of covid-19. It is hoped that wealthy South East Asian governments can bridge a compromise between innovators and patients suffering from covid-19.

For further information on this topic please contact Ian Mirandah at Mirandah Asia by telephone (+60 322 788 686) or email ([email protected]). The Mirandah Asia website can be accessed at www.mirandah.com.