In the wake of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, various efforts and initiatives have quite recently been introduced to encourage innovation and stimulate the production of daily essentials. Patent holders across the globe are requested or required to refrain themselves from asserting their Patent Rights in the event where a relevant technology can be efficiently used to fight the pandemic. Innovators and inventors who are looking forward to helping in the global COVID-19 response may consider involving themselves in or supporting the following ongoing activities:
The Open COVID Pledge
The Open COVID Pledge is a commitment made by the Intellectual Property (IP) owners around the world, corresponding to making their IP assets available to others by using free and temporary license agreements. Doing the same shall undoubtedly encourage development and further deployment of technologies, including vaccines, diagnostics, medical equipment, and therapeutics, which are exceedingly capable of mitigating or putting an end to the COVID-19 pandemic. To be specific, the IP owners making this pledge are licensing their IP assets to anyone willing to fight the Coronavirus crisis. The licenses constitute a temporary grant of Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) lasting until one year after the WHO (World Health Organization) announces that the COVID-19 pandemic has ended. The ones who are looking to extract benefits from the license need to realize the fact that not all IP assets are immediately or automatically covered in the license. Therefore, to stay safe, individuals must look forward to seeking separate rights from all the IP holders with whom their product or service relates to the extent those IP owners have not taken the Open COVID Pledge. The hope of the developers of the Open COVID Pledge is to ensure that all the significant holders of COVID-related IP shall come forward to adopt the pledge and subsequently make the production of the corresponding technologies free from the underlying IP risks. Even after the pandemic is over – the developers shall stay hopeful about the participating companies and organizations making their IP assets available via reasonable licensing agreements.
The Medicines Patent Pool and Unitaid
As a global initiative, the Medicine Patent Pool (a United Nations-backed international organization) and Unitaid (a global health initiative specializing in creating transformative solutions to address the global pandemics), announced last week that the COVID-19 diagnostics and medicines would be a part of the organizations’ patent pool to enable their access by the most vulnerable set of the population around the world. On 6th April 2020, WHO endorsed the development of a voluntary pool of patent rights, including vaccines, medicines, and diagnostic kits, with either free access or licensing on fair and reasonable terms for all the nations. Many experts have also observed that some companies have taken it upon themselves independently for opening their IP portfolios to fight the ongoing pandemic. For instance, AbbVie (an American publicly-traded biopharmaceutical company) has recently announced that it won’t enforce any of its global patent rights on any formulations of HIV medication Kaletra (Aluvia). The drug, at present, is being evaluated for its ability to treat the severe Coronavirus.
Facilitating Innovation to Fight Coronavirus Act
Senator Ben Sasse (an American author, politician, academic administrator, and professor serving as the junior United States senator from Nebraska) has recently proposed another initiative known as “Facilitating Innovation to Fight Coronavirus Act.” The act, among many other things, aims to suspend the commencement of the term of any newly-granted patents corresponding to the treatment of the Coronavirus until and unless the ongoing pandemic is declared to be over by the President. To be specific, the owner of such patents wouldn’t be able to enforce his or her patent rights during the emergency. However, the proposed act serves to help the patent holders by extending the term of Patent Protection by ten years in addition to the typical term of 20 years from the date of filing the Patent Application. Some commentators believe that this patent extension term is opportunistic and potentially impractical to implement.