As the Coronavirus spreads across the globe, scientists realized that this was an unknown virus. The medical tools that might be used to detect, treat and prevent it don’t exist.
Developing new tests and treatments requires time and money. Moreover, it’s necessary for these innovations to be tested and attain approval from the FDA or other agencies.
Here’s a look at some of the patent-related efforts that are underway to fight COVID-19.
What is the Facilitating Innovation to Fight Coronavirus Act?
Recently, a bill was drafted in the U.S. Its goal is removing barriers to inventing medical interventions that may be able to prevent or treat COVID-19.
Legal analysts tend to agree that the proposed legislation is a hodgepodge of laudable ideas and unintended consequences. The proposed act contains two sections, the first of which protects individuals from liability lawsuits arising from Coronavirus treatments.
The second section suspends the patent rights of certain medical products and provides a 10-year patent term extension beginning after the pandemic.
Analysts tend to see little problem with the first section, but the second one is causing concern. Critics feel that it’s just too vague. Biomedical firms heavily invest in new products. They bear these expenses because of the exclusivity that’s granted to them through a patent, which means that they may recoup their costs.
Unfortunately, the proposed legislation is too vague about how a new patent application that covers relevant technology would be treated. Does the clock on its term not start until the end of the pandemic, and then is the patent eligible for an additional 10 years?
If the law passes as written, it would mean that the inventors no longer had “exclusive” rights, which is one of the primary reasons why patents are pursued. Moreover, inventors would have to worry about infringing actions occurring at a time when they should enjoy perfect exclusivity.
How will patent owners re-establish exclusivity when the pandemic is over? The invention will have entered the public domain, making this a potentially impossible task.
Hopefully, this bill will be clarified before being adopted.
Patent Protections and Relaxation During the Pandemic
The relaxation of patent protections is occurring around the world In Israel, the government wants to made use of Abbvie’s drug known as Kaletra to treat COVID-19, but there isn’t enough of it in the country. Abbvie held patents in several countries for Kaletra, many of which have which expired.
Their Israeli patent is still in force, so that government is looking at obtaining generic Kaletra from another country, such as India, where the patent has expired.
In response, Abbvie announced that they would cease patent enforcement with regard to Kaletra, paving a cooperative way forward.
This approach makes sense in the case of a drug that’s near the end of its patentable life. Nonetheless, it’s vital that governments always consult with patent holders before looking for ways around their rights.
Lengthening Patent Terms and its Effect on Innovators
Governments are seeking to prevent innovators from profiteering from Coronavirus. They mainly are accomplishing this by passing legislation that allows them to produce any patented item that might help in the fight.
The U.S. government’s approach is different. The Coronavirus-relief bills provide billions of dollars’ worth of public research money to federal agencies to develop treatments and vaccines. Is it ethical for a government agency to receive an additional 10-year patent term on life-saving treatments or vaccines that should be freely available?
Many critics don’t think so, citing the stance taken by Jonas Salk when he developed the polio vaccine. Salk declared that his innovation needed to be owned by the public, and people say that the same approach should apply here.
Will the thought of not having the exclusive right to profit from a vaccine or treatment stop innovators? It’s possible, but there’s hope that an altruistic spirit will motivate the right inventors to find a cure.
COVID-19 Innovations & Keeping Your IP Safe
Despite the current uncertainty with regard to patent protection for Coronavirus-related technologies, it’s wise to seek patent protection. With shortages of items like face masks and medicines, there’s a proliferation of adulterated or counterfeit goods. Pursuing a patent gives you the right to prevent this.
In the spirit of cooperation, educational institutions, government agencies and biomedical firms are pledging to make their COVID-19 research freely available without enforcing patent rights. Whether your invention helps to stop the pandemic or not, contact Williams IP Law to discuss how to protect your IP.