The COVID-19 pandemic provides an opportunity to reflect upon the crucial role of intellectual property (IP) in the on-going health crisis and dedicate IP to finding a permanent solution.
Vaccines – permanent solutions:
- Vaccines are real solutions to this pandemic.
- However, their production and distribution will take a long time.
- First it has to be invented. Next approval – even after approval for commercial production is granted in one nation, in order for the product to be available ubiquitously, approvals will be required in every nation.
- All nations have to be ready for instant manufacturing and marketing of the vaccine.
- Towards this, continuous dialogue is needed among innovators, manufacturers and supply chains.
- This demands effort by governments, private industries, and international organisations.
Do patents create roadblocks, or provide a solution?
- Many innovations happened post COVID19 outbreak. Any of them could be the subject of patent claims worldwide.
- There may be claims, rival claims by nations. Collaborations may also occur.
- Patent exclusivity accepted by patent rights may be detrimental to the society.
- During a pandemic, creating hindrances through exclusivity arguments would result in separating countries, private industries and international organisations.
- Such hindrances won’t help patients.
- If patent proprietors build impediments on the strength of patent rights, the world may dislike patents. This is unwarranted.
Patents grant exclusivity in the market to the owners for a limited period.
This exclusivity for drugs will last for as long as the primary patent is in place, usually 20 years.
The primary patent applies to the therapeutic active pharmaceutical ingredient (API).
- Pandemics need solutions:
- Governments and international organizations must reach a consensus beforehand to ensure the framework is ready.
- Under the TRIPS (TradeRelated Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) regime, tools like compulsory licensing could ensure access to medicines.
- However, society itself should respect innovation.
- To protect the sanctity and integrity of patent systems, and to prevent an anti IP sentiment, answers should be found within the existing regime.
- Patent pools:
- Patent pools can be used for the collection, administration and licensing of patents relating to particular technical areas.
- It could be regulated by a central entity and the patents entering the pool should be readily available for licensing. Some pools could also publish payable royalty rates beforehand.
- A global pool of COVID19related innovations, or innovations related to rare pandemics, in respect of vaccines and medicines could be created.
- Vaccines and medicines will be quickly available under this.
- Such pooling of patents is also in line with the Doha Declaration on Public Health (a part of the TRIPS agreement).
- This declaration recognises the need for taking measures to ‘protect public health’ and ‘promote access to medicines’.
- Public Private Partnerships (PPP) should be scaled up.
- Creation of the ‘PPP pandemic patent pool’ at a global level, to pool all innovations, is the way forward.
- Source:” The Hindu “.
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