Introduction and inter-relation of Covid-19 and IP
The Covid-19 pandemic is one of the most serious global health crisis that the
world is going through currently and for the past one year. It has led to a
large number of deaths and serious illnesses among others, worldwide. Not just a
health crisis, but, all countries had to face an unprecedented socio-economic
crisis due to lack of functional labour, halt in the manufacturing sector, risk
to mankind etc. thus, lowering the efficiency among human resources, reducing
the pace of development and GDP of the countries across the globe.
crisis has had a negative impact across all business sectors and has also left
an impact on the protection of existing intellectual property rights as well as
the ones which have been developed as Covid 19 innovations. These innovations
encompass pharmaceutical products such as medicines, vaccines and diagnostics
needed to cope up and fight the pandemic.
The cure to this pandemic situation
lies in the pharmaceutical industry and thus the need of the hour is to protect
such intellectual properties/ innovations so that once they are tested, approved
and granted protection, they can serve as quick and reliable solutions to cure
the illness among thousands and lakhs of people suffering globally.
Recent developments and reason for IP protection
The pandemic has led various scientists, virologists and medical experts to
indulge into extensive research into finding better ways of detecting
infections, how they could prevent them through vaccines and discovering new and
effective ways of treatment of this disease.
Among these, the recent developments in India include the 2 vaccines- Covishield
and Covaxin, which have been given approval by the CDSCO. Covishield which is
developed and manufactured by Serum Institute of India in collaboration with
AstraZeneca and Covaxin, an indigenous vaccine developed by Bharat Biotech,
Indian Institute of Medical Research and Institute of Virology. These institutes
were given restricted emergency use.
Global developments of Covid 19 vaccines include - Moderna, Pfizer, and BioNTech
and other treatments include Regeneron.
Other development that is still in process of being approved is – the detection
of temperature of a person through thermal imaging, which ensures that there is
contactless means of calculating the temperature of a Covid 19 suspect. These
innovations have and will bring positive improvements in the healthcare sector
and thus require IP protection.
These institutes and inventors are putting their intellect, hard work, time and
money into developing cures in the form of vaccines and drugs to tackle this
situation as soon as possible and live up-to the saying that “Prevention is
always better than cure
”. Thus, these innovations need to be protected by
granting the inventors patents and so providing them an incentives for their
development in the pharmaceutical industry.
The severity of the pandemic has led to a higher and quicker demand of potential
drugs and vaccines across the globe. Amongst this severity, there has been a
debate about how granting IP protection to such innovations hampers, inhibits
and poses an obstacle to the access to such drugs and vaccines for public good.
But, the underlying challenge is not access to the vaccines but the lack of
approved vaccines, drugs and treatments across the globe.
Thus, this clearly
concludes that IP protection does not create a barrier to such access and the
governments shall realize that a balance of competing interests needs to be
created for protection of IP rights while serving public good.
Need for IP protection of Covid 19 innovations
- The high and quick demand of potential drugs can smoothly be satisfied
only when the inventors are given IP protection. This is important because
due to the high demand there is also a potential risk of the invention been
stolen or the composition of the drugs or vaccines being leaked to a local
manufacturer. Thus, encroaching the rights of the inventor and also
hampering the quality factor of the drug/vaccine developed.
- If IP protection is granted, this designates the innovation with a
reliability tag. This means that if IP protection is granted to a certain
innovation, it has gone through a legal process, complying with all the
trials and tests and so, people who are affected can, without a second
thought trust and rely on the invention developed.
- IP protection shall prevent stockpiling medicines, drugs and vaccines as
the inventor shall receive incentives for his innovation and can safely put
out the patent for use at least for 20 years without the risk of being
stolen or infringed, till the time it comes into public domain.
- It will protect public from receiving and consuming local, counterfeited
and adulterated drugs. Thus, patent ownership shall drastically influence
global access to healthcare and reliable cures to combat the global
If we do not grant IP protection and completely strip away IPR in wake of public
good, the system will break out. There will be more related concerns of
infringement that shall delay approvals of the Covid innovations. Moreover,
there is no such guarantee whether without granting protection and taking up the
‘Open-Covid Pledge’ (adopted by many) which gives access to the use of IP
innovations free of charge, shall work to cure public health. Thus, taking the
situation farther from ending the global health crisis.
Potential Solution proposed to be adopted
The way we can potentially achieve a balance between protecting/ granting IP
rights to Covid innovations and at the same time serve public good is by
approaching the inventors to allow voluntary licensing and if the situation gets
severe the government shall resolve to compulsory licensing. Compulsory
licensing of patents for vaccines and other Covid innovations includes the
government allowing a third-party to produce a patented product or process
without the consent of the patent owner. But, this method can be resolved to, as
the owner shall still have ownership rights over the patent and shall be paid
compensation for copies made under compulsory licensing. Thus, balancing the war
between protection of rights and public health.
Covid-19 pandemic has lasted for quite some time now and researchers say that it
is still to have long lasting repercussions for the coming decade. So, while
living with the pandemic one has to think from a farther perspective. The race
to develop a vaccine or a cure for Covid- 19 is not just about saving lives of
the people but also owning patent rights for what can be potential cures to
fight the battle in the long run. This shall give the patent owner an edge to
control the manufacture and distribution of innovations in countries where he
has been granted patent rights and so shall help combat the Covid-19 pandemic.