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COVID-19: A pandemic patent pool needed

  • IASbaba
  • May 1, 2020
  • 0
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GOVERNANCE/ ECONOMY/ INTERNATIONAL

Topic: General Studies 2 & 3:

  • Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors 
  • Indian Economy and challenges with regard to resource mobilization 

COVID-19: A pandemic patent pool needed

Context: Every April 26, World Intellectual Property Day is celebrated. This year provided an opportunity to reflect upon the role of intellectual property (IP) in the ongoing health crisis 

Vaccines as solution to Pandemic: Critical Analysis

For human life to become normal again, vaccines or medicines are the only permanent solutions. However, there are several obstacles like:

  • Time Constraints: Even by conservative estimates, it will take at least 6-10 months for any vaccine/drug to be available.
  • Scalability: Even when approval for marketing of a vaccine/drug is granted, it will be impossible for it to be made instantly available across the world.
  • National Boundaries: For the product to be available across the world, approvals will be required in each and every country. 
  • Large scale Collaboration: For the vaccine/drug to be available continuous dialogue has to take place among innovators, manufacturers and supply chains.
  • Exclusivity claims: Innovations may be subjected to patent applications around the world to reap commercial benefits, which enhances above constraints

What is the purpose of Patents/Intellectual Property?

  • The purpose of creating and recognising patent rights is for the common public good, i.e., innovation should be made public in exchange for a limited monopoly.
  • Thus, patents need to be disclosed to the public in order to enable further research.

Dangers of Patents in present times

  • It will create obstacles in delivering the medicine to patients
  • It will result in dividing countries, corporations and international organisations. 
  • Anti-IP sentiment will build up across society, when patents are excessively utilized during public health crisis like this- it is not in the long term interest of IP

Solution is Creating a Patent Pool

  • Patent pools are usually effective in aggregating, administering and licensing patents related to specific areas of technology
  • Such pools are usually managed by a central agency and the patents which become part of the pool are readily made available for licensing. 
  • They publish the royalty rates payable for such licences.
  • Anyone who wishes to obtain a licence will be able to approach the pool, agree to the terms, and begin to manufacture and sell the products. 
  • Such pools are prevalent in, for instance, standard essential patents related to telecom and digital innovations.
  • A fruitful endeavour would be to create a global pool of COVID-19related innovations, managed by a trustworthy international organisation

Advantages of Global Patent Pool for COVID-19

  • It will be in line with the Doha Declaration on Public Health which is a part of the TRIPS agreement. 
  • It ensures countries have the right to implement these innovations without further permission from the patent-holders and without resorting to provisions such as compulsory licensing, state acquisition, etc
  • It will ensure that there are hundreds of manufacturers across the world. As a result, vaccines and medicines will be quickly available. 
  • Though royalties will be at a minimal level, the revenues would be high due to the large population affected by the pandemic
  • Some part of the royalties could then be disbursed to patent owners on a periodic basis and some part could be used to fund further research to deal with such pandemics in future.

Conclusion

Global patent pool needs the cooperation of not just countries and international organisations but also the hundreds of researchers, innovators, companies and universities involved. 

Connecting the dots:

  • Compulsory licensing and India
  • National IPR Policy of India

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