[Ip-health] Reuters: U.N. Agency Says Coronavirus Emergency Could Trump Some Patent Rights

James Love james.love at keionline.org
Wed Apr 8 03:50:21 PDT 2020


U.N. Agency Says Coronavirus Emergency Could Trump Some Patent Rights
By Reuters
April 7, 2020

GENEVA — Discussions are under way on enabling wider access to some
patented drugs and medical supplies during the coronavirus pandemic, the
head of the U.N.'s intellectual property agency said on Tuesday.

Francis Gurry, director-general of the World Intellectual Property
Organization (WIPO), said that during an emergency, health and safety
"trumps everything".

World Health Organization (WHO) director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus
said on Monday that he backed a proposal by Costa Rica's President Carlos
Alvarado to "create a pool of rights to tests, medicines and vaccines, with
free access or licensing on reasonable and affordable terms for all

"We are working with Costa Rica to finalise the details," Tedros told

WIPO's Gurry, asked about demands for access to drugs and compulsory
licensing, told a separate news conference: "This is a hot issue, and it's
a very sensitive issue as well."

But extraordinary situations call for "extraordinary measures", he said,
adding: "The international legal framework does foresee a certain number of
flexibilities for countries to be able to deal with health in particular
and health emergencies.

"If they are targeted, such as the compulsory license situation, a very
specific compulsory license on a very specific product to ensure the supply
of product in the market, that's arguably the sort of action that we need,"
he said.

A "non-legislative mechanism" would be a "great way forward", Gurry said,
adding: "Let's look at the practical measures that can make a difference
here. And of course we are involved discussions with various parties to see
what might be done in this regard."

The World Trade Organization's so-called TRIPS agreement (Trade-Related
Intellectual Property Rights) essentially allows countries during an
emergency to grant "compulsory licenses" to companies to produce a patented

Canada’s emergency legislation on the coronavirus crisis adopted last month
gives the health minister powers to circumvent patent law and ensure
medical supplies, medication or vaccines can be produced locally.

Israel last month invoked an emergency patent-suspension clause, allowing
it to import a generic version of anti-viral drug Kaletra produced by
AbbVie Inc

Gurry said tech start-ups and creative industries including musicians and
actors should be covered in compensation packages for the crisis which has
hit jobs and venture capital.

"The impact on innovation is going to be extremely significant," he said.
"We would like to see governments paying attention in their remediation
packages also to the plight of our creators."

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Peter Graff)

James Love.  Knowledge Ecology International
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