07 de març 2021

Vaccine access, now!

 Global equitable access to vaccines, medicines and diagnostics for COVID-19: The role of patents as private governance 

A compulsory licence allows a third party to produce a patented technology without the patent holder’s permission. Article 31 of the TRIPS Agreement allows all WTO States to issue compulsory licences subject to certain criteria.19 First, all cases are considered on their individual merits. Thus, a blanket compulsory licence for certain technologies, for example, medicines, is not possible. Second, prior attempts to negotiate a licence for the invention on reasonable terms with the patent holder must be evident. This requirement can be waived in ‘a national emergency or other circumstances of extreme urgency or in cases of public non-commercial use’ which would likely apply for COVID-19. Third, the scope/duration of the licence must be for the limited purpose it was authorised for. Fourth, the licence is non-exclusive so the patent holder can still enter into licensing agreements with others. Fifth, use of the licence is generally permitted predominantly for the supply of the domestic market of the State where the compulsory licence is granted. Finally, the patent holder must be paid ‘adequate renumeration’ for the compulsory licence.


 Crucially, it is only by starting a deeper conversation around the role of patent holders within the health context for COVID-19 and of the role of the public interest within patent law more generally that we can address and pre-empt some of the current obstacles posed by patents to equitable global access to healthcare. Given the significant health implications at stake it is vital that this conversation is informed by a global health and bioethics perspective