The term Intellectual Property (IP) – with prominent forms like patent, trademark, copyright, and industrial design – is indeed a significant driver for the economic growth and the foundation of a consumer thriving society. In the present scenario across the globe, it is the engine holding immense potential for getting the entire world out of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

In India, the Coronavirus cases have crossed 4,000, and the government is bracing up to face the further rise in the infections requiring hospitals and intensive care units at a large scale. The government is also making sincere efforts to procure ventilators, diagnostic kits, protective gear, and other necessary equipment. One missing piece in this circumstance could be India’s preparedness to establish local capabilities for supplying Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) protected ingredients, products, and spare parts that are crucial in the fight against COVID-19. Many nations, including Italy and the UK, are already facing some supply issues, and India, too, is no better placed.

According to various reports that came out in the last week, many politicians in the Netherlands and the UK accused the world’s leading diagnostic kit maker, Swiss multinational Roche, of holding back the chemical formulae for a reagent, that is, a buffer used in its polymerase chain reaction-based test for the Coronavirus. Consequently, the politicians went ahead with blaming Roche’s inability to supply the required volumes of this reagent as one of the prime reasons for the delay in increasing up the Coronavirus tests in their respective nations. Quite seemingly, the politicians were looking forward to Roche sharing the chemical formulae for enabling the local firms to produce the reagent extensively. However, Roche had sufficient Intellectual Property Protection and the legal rights in place corresponding to not sharing its IPR protected chemical formulae.

What can be drawn from such a situation is that the problem in the first place arose due to the much needed timely supply of essential items in adequate quantity. As a result, the same is undoubtedly a challenge for the IPR holders and posing a threat to the government of different countries.

Two of the medicines, including Remidisivir and Fevipriavir, which at present, are going through clinical trials in India to determine whether they can be repurposed for COVID-19 are already Patent Protected in the country. Until and unless the patent holders insist upon the corresponding IP Rights, access to these two medicines should not pose a concern for India since the domestic generic industry has already proven its capability of producing low-cost medicines in a relatively short span. However, several nations around the world are not relying on the generosity of IPR holders. Some of them, including Chile and Israel, have already gone ahead with issuing orders to facilitate compulsory licenses of the IP protected products for treating the Coronavirus. Moreover, Germany has even amended its Patent Act for facilitating compulsory licensing.

The Coronavirus treatment protocol of the World Health Organization (WHO) has a long list of products that are required at various stages of the disease’s outbreak. The World Trade Organization (WTO) has estimated the size of global trade of the Coronavirus related medical products and medicines as $597 billion. Although Patent Protection on medicines is instead better tracked and well known, the same may not hold for most other products out there, of which the IPR status is not quite clear.

Dr. Carlos Correa, the Executive Director of the South Centre, has recently asked the heads of WIPO, WTO, and WHO, to extend support to the developing and other nations as they may require using the Article 73(b) of the TRIPS Agreement corresponding to suspending the enforcement of IPRs, which may pose a threat to the local manufacturing or procurement of the devices and products required to safeguard their populations. India’s response to the same is awaited as of now.