COVID-19 is spreading rapidly across the world and having a devastating impact on many people’s lives. As countries go into lockdown and ramp up protection measures, the virus is treading a path of disruption in all areas of society.
The IP world is not exempt from these changes, of course, and the people and systems within it face uncertain times. At Managing IP we are endeavouring to make sense of what these fast-moving developments mean for practitioners, counsel and all other stakeholders globally.
Beyond keeping people safe, the immediate priority is to find a vaccine. This is never a quick process, but many companies are working tirelessly to make a breakthrough and give the world hope. As with any major R&D work, the role of patents would be expected to be pivotal. However, in the desperate race to find a cure for COVID-19, it seems that patents may not in fact be a useful incentive.
Risk and reward
That was the finding of one our first articles on COVID-19, written by Managing IP reporter Charlotte Kilpatrick. After speaking to in-house and private counsel, she found that different reward schemes for vaccine research including vouchers and government prize money may instead be the answer. You can read the full article here or take a trial here if you don’t have a subscription.
Strategies under strain
Another patent-related theme is linked to the volume of publications on a possible vaccine – not to mention the speed at which they are released. It means that forming an effective patent strategy in the search for a COVID-19 cure is becoming harder by the day, and that’s without considering whether governments would decide to step in and exploit companies’ IP in a crisis like this. Those issues and more were explored in an article here.
COVID-19 has already turned many people’s professional (and personal) worlds upside down, with remote working becoming mandatory and age-old practices being put to the test. To find out how IP lawyers and owners have been affected, our senior reporter Max Walters has spoken to several specialists about the overall impact on IP office procedures and more. You can read the full article here.
These articles provide just a taste of how impactful COVID-19 is likely to be on IP. The race to innovate may throw up incredibly challenging questions, perhaps some that have never been tested before. We are already seeing reports that a medical device company in Italy – one of the worst-affected countries – has threatened to sue volunteers who 3D printed a valve used for life-saving treatments. Amid a global health crisis, many people would support actions that potentially violate IP rights if it means saving lives. But IP owners would probably argue that such treatments wouldn’t exist without their investment and monopoly. It is in times like these when we really see the tension between public need and private interest.
Stay up to date
As our reporters provide more insight on COVID-19 developments, we will update the below list of stories for you.
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