In 2013, the Supreme Court had acknowledged India’s reputation as the ‘pharmacy of the world’ in Novartis vs. UOI, and the same is affirmed once again today in 2020. During the HIV/AIDS outbreak back in 2001, the cost associated with the treatment was an unconceivable $10,000 for one patient per year; however, the same was reduced by the Indian pharmaceutical companies to $400. India had indeed saved a lot of lives at that time by supplying the medicines and other treatment stuff at 4% of the original cost, especially to Africa.
In the present highly competitive environment as well, the Indian economy continues to manufacture and supply fairly reasonable diagnostic kits and medicines, which match the international standards for Tuberculosis, HIV, Dengue, Hepatitis B and C, Chikungunya, Malaria, H1N1, SARS, to name a few, across the globe.
The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is a crisis, which the entire world is witnessing today after almost a century. The virus needs adequate diagnostic, management, prevention, and therapeutic mechanisms. At present, the steps that are being taken are only corresponding to delaying the spread of the virus and treating the infected patients. However, these steps don’t have the potential to restore normalcy as human life stands disrupted to a massive extent today. For the world to get back to its normal state – there is a dire need to have the appropriate vaccines and medicines in place.
In different parts of the world, new diagnostic kits, ventilators, management techniques, vaccines, IP solutions, medicines, and therapies are being developed at an enormous pace to treat the novel Coronavirus. The Intellectual Property (IP) generated in the process needs to be protected as well. As per various recent reports, people are increasingly looking forward to gaining control of Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) in this scenario. Therefore, an IP war is on the rise too. But, can the world at present even afford to have such a war when all of us are facing one of the most critical situations of crisis?
In the 1980s, conflicts concerning IP were corresponding to having robust and efficient IP regimes. At that time, the TRIPS Agreement as part of the WTO negotiations had proved to be a fruitful outcome. However, even then, public health was the topmost priority, which is evident from the Doha Declaration on Public Health, emphasizing on the need to have access to affordable medicines.
Various recent developments have demonstrated that the WTO may not be the preferred forum anymore. Many countries and regions around the world now give more priority to bilateral agreements, with clauses dealing with IP assets. Without any second thoughts, multilateralism could indeed be seen giving way to bilateralism. Despite the massive outbreak, the current lack of a consistent global policy on health and IP could lead to a further delay in the production of medicines and vaccines. Hence, there is undoubtedly an immediate need to come up with a platform, which would help significantly in enabling and sharing research; and the Indian economy requires leading the way.
In the National IPR Policy of India released in May 2016, one of the most crucial goals was corresponding to creating a platform for sharing of research. It called for the creation of a public platform functioning as a regular database of IP Rights. Such a platform can indeed assist the innovators and creators in connecting with buyers, potential users, and funding institutions. It can also be useful in identifying the white spaces in the technology landscape and further promoting innovation in uncovered areas.
One of the recognized methods of enabling and sharing IP relates to the concept of Patent Pools. Therefore, there is an approaching necessity at present to:
- Establish a public platform for all researchers and manufacturers to research, communicate, collaborate, and share.
- Encourage researchers to file Patent Applications for their unique innovations.
- Make relevant pieces of information about the on-going research and products developed readily available.
- Set up a platform where IP can conveniently be licensed for both domestic and global scaling up.
- Allow the conduct of clinical trials.
It is imperative to make sure that such a platform needs to be interactive in all aspects. Besides, it must serve as a one-stop solution, which would answer all queries instantaneously and efficiently. To be specific, an IP ecosystem needs to be established in a centralized manner. Once the platform is set up, it can be further scaled to the global level with the utmost cooperation of international organizations and like-minded nations. Remember, with collective combating of the virus – we can achieve the selfless goal of the researchers, which would benefit one and all.