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 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 “.
POSSIBLE UPSC CSE MAINS QUESTION: