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An ethico-legal assessment of intellectual property rights and their effect on COVID-19 vaccine distribution: an Australian case study


Scheibner, J and Nielsen, J and Nicol, D, An ethico-legal assessment of intellectual property rights and their effect on COVID-19 vaccine distribution: an Australian case study, Journal of Law and the Biosciences, 9, (2) pp. 1-36. ISSN 2053-9711 (2022) [Refereed Article]

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The Author(s) 2022. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Duke University School of Law, Harvard Law School, Oxford University Press, and Stanford Law School. All rights reserved. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) licence (

DOI: doi:10.1093/jlb/lsac020


This article posits that Australia, as an affluent country with increasing capacity to manufacture vaccines, has an obligation to assist its regional (and global) counterparts in implementing vaccination programs that protect their populations. First, the article explores the capacity of high-income nations to meet their obligations, assist their neighbours and refrain from vaccine nationalism. This inquiry involves an analysis of the optimal ethical strategy for distributing vaccines globally, and the role that Australia might play in this distribution strategy. Secondly, the article examines the intellectual property landscape for vaccines in Australia, focusing on the patents that cover vaccine compositions and manufacturing techniques (recognizing the potential for know-how and access to materials as well as patents to affect manufacturing capacity). This article then discusses the strategies the Australian Government has at its disposal to counter potential intellectual property impediments whilst complying with existing obligations under the Agreement on Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), as an ethically appropriate response to the pandemic. This article also considers whether a so-called TRIPS waiver could provide better options and concludes that the challenge of compelling disclosure of know-how remains.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:COVID-19, vaccines, innovation, patents, trade secrets, ethics
Research Division:Law and Legal Studies
Research Group:Law in context
Research Field:Law, science and technology
Objective Division:Law, Politics and Community Services
Objective Group:Justice and the law
Objective Field:Legislation, civil and criminal codes
UTAS Author:Scheibner, J (Mr James Scheibner)
UTAS Author:Nielsen, J (Associate Professor Jane Nielsen)
UTAS Author:Nicol, D (Professor Dianne Nicol)
ID Code:152246
Year Published:2022
Funding Support:Australian Research Council (DP180100269)
Deposited By:Law
Deposited On:2022-08-15
Last Modified:2023-01-12
Downloads:4 View Download Statistics

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