IP considerations in COVID-19 vaccine development: tensions and tools
Development of COVID-19 vaccines will produce valuable IP that could be protected by patents.
However, given that a patent application is not published until about 18 months from its initial filing date, we cannot yet see what kinds of inventions are sought to be covered, who is filing patents, and where patents are being filed to protect COVID-19 related inventions. Given the nature of the pandemic affecting most of the world’s population, its rapid spread and severe complications it causes, some may question whether any IP developed in this area should be subject to protection by private parties to begin with.
HGF Partner Dr Leena Contarino and Senior Patent Attorney Ellie Purnell discuss the perceived tension between patent protection and information sharing at a time of need for collaboration and speed, and suggest that, as evidenced by the Ebola vaccine campaign, patent protection, information sharing, and collaboration are not necessarily mutually exclusive endeavours.
They propose that while some simplified licensing schemes that could be tools to speed up sharing, such as patent pooling initiatives modelled by the telecom and electronics industry are still facing resistance among some pharma companies, development of a better information sharing platform for vaccine technologies could serve as one way to speed up collaborations at time of crises. You can read more about COVID-19 licensing challenges here.