Vaccines for the recent virus seem to be rolling out one after the other since the start of 2021, and it raises the silent tension between countries.
Investments in research and development in 2020 have skyrocketed for healthcare and lifesciences, and perhaps the biggest strain has been the time limit. Countries have all entered the race to gain rights for the most effective vaccines against Covid-19. From America changing regulations to allow on-shore development to avoid having to ask for help from other countries, through Israel vaccinating 80% of their population by now, through the UK having record numbers of vaccine brands accepted, to the struggle of availability in the EU after Brexit, and developing countries having to queue years for first access.
The two major rights that are vital here have been patents and trademarks, afterall, with such a global demand, vaccines are to be the new “moon landing” whoever finds it first gains a massive advantage. According to the WHO, one of the largest issues has been the increase in counterfeits, with putting developing countries, private consumers and smaller healthcare providers at risk. Bob Barchiesi, head of International AntiCounterfeiting Coalition, has said, that a heavy percentage of fake healthcare products have originated since the start of the pandemic, and effects of this do not only cause substandard goods, but can lead to life threatening issues.
Nonetheless, the largest development in pharmaceuticals has been the long sought after vaccine for Covid-19, giving countries on their knees a little hope to rebuild their social economy. Pharmaceuticals vigorously defend their IP rights, as according to Dr Anton Hutter from Venner Shipley, “Pharmaceutical companies have commercial entities.” However, these companies have been heavily called to waive these rights, after all, with lives at stake, spending time on exercising IP rights seems more of a corporate and national greed for monetary success to many. As a result, a larger number of firms have signed up to the Open Covid Pledge, in which they would offer their IP to be available free of charge, to speed up the vaccine rollouts. IBM, Morgan and Stanley and Microsoft have all felt their responsibility to join.
The war therefore is between multiple players, this involves countries, companies, and people, where the division is all about the exercising of IP rights. This is perhaps one of those majorly dividing things out there for IP, and what is waiting in the future is still questionable. Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Moderna have all said to avoid enforcing their IP rights in the future, and avoid making a profit of this, while Oxford has pledged to only sell based on the price of manufacture costs. IP is still out there though, as well as the law, what comes of this, only time will tell. What we know for sure, is that 2020 has brought IP to a turning point, if anything, this suggests to expect the unexpected and as Hutter also highlighted “I would never say never.”
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Categorised in: IP