Making Intellectual Property a Common Good to Combat Global Pandemics and the COVID-19 Technology Access Pool (C-TAP): Responding to the Challenges Exerted by Big Pharma and Some High-Income Countries


  • A.A.C.J. Adikari
  • Sanath Sameera Wijesinghe



The COVID-19 outbreak has created a global race for research into a vaccine, diagnostic and therapeutic among research institutes, governments, and big-tech pharmaceutical companies (Big Pharma). In this context, intellectual property rights (IPRs) play a prominent role in incentivizing COVID-19 vaccines. Simultaneously, IPRs, particularly the patent rights of Big Pharma, create restrictions on fair access to affordable COVID-19 vaccines. Besides, economically powerful high-income countries have purchased and reserved a large amount of COVID-19 vaccines while low and middle-income countries (LMICs) have been struggling to obtain sufficient vaccine doses. These factors have contributed to increasing the gap of access to affordable COVID-19 vaccines between high-income countries and LMICs. Having foreseen the likely effect of LMICs being discriminated against in the global COVID-19 vaccine production and distribution, the global community has already made some efforts to revisit the normative aspects of IPRs by making intellectual property a common good to achieve global health during the pandemic. For example, the World Health Organization (WHO) has launched the COVID-19 Technology Access Pool (C-TAP), considering the proposal made by Costa Rica. The C-TAP intended to ensure technology transfer, disclosure of research, flexible licensing and open innovations. However, Big Pharma and some high-income countries have criticised and directly interfered in the effective functioning of C-TAP. Therefore, there remains a question as to whether the C-TAP approach would only be idealistic or realistic in the global governance of IPRs and public health. Accordingly, this paper critically analyses the prospects that C-TAP would offer LMICs to overcome IPRs-related barriers and resource constraints in accessing the COVID-19 vaccine and reflect on how to tackle Big Pharma and some high-income countries’ influences on the effective functioning of C-TAP. 


Access to medicine: Big Pharma: COVID-19 vaccine: C-TAP: IP as a common good