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Thursday 4 June 2020

Patricia Covarrubia

A Call for a Relaxation of IP Rights during Coronavirus Pandemic

    1 comment:

Aimed to ensure people´s health, Colombian congressmen together with a group of citizens have requested the President of the Republic to take the appropriate measures for allowing the use of medicines and technologies protected by intellectual property rights to address the challenges posed by the current pandemic situation.

Based on the text of the Political Constitution, the petitioners have requested to adopt, within the shortest possible time, the measures required for relaxing the current intellectual property rules and the patent system, to facilitate access to medicines, technologies, chemical reagents, vaccines, and the medical devices used to diagnose and treat the coronavirus. In their opinion, the rising infection rates put human lives at risk and jeopardise the health system, which justifies a decision of this kind.

Among other actions, they propose implementing a faster procedure for the concession of compulsory licenses and statutory licenses for government and non-commercial uses. They fear that the intellectual property rights, used to control the placing in the market and import of diagnostic tests, medical devices, medicines and vaccines, could produce either a shortage or a rise in the price of these products. Also, they point out that medicines such as the Remdesivir having a high probability of success for the treatment of coronavirus, in Colombia are protected with at least three different patents.

While the petitioners recognise the declaratory of public interest for medicines, technologies, vaccines, medical devices and supplies, as a step forward in fighting the virus, for them, it is yet not clear whether such declaratory will be enough for issuing compulsory and statutory licences or, if a resolution from the Ministry of Health will also be required.

So far there is no answer from the National Government to this petition, and many sectors are interested in the measures that could be adopted in this regard.

This press note was originally published in Spanish language on May 29th 2020 on the web site of semana.com

Post written by Florelia Vallejo Trujillo
Assistant Professor, Universidad del Tolima, Colombia

Patricia Covarrubia

Patricia Covarrubia


Write comments
10 June 2020 at 19:48 delete

I understand that this call to "relaxation" or "flexibility" of intellectual property, particularly industrial property, is not only unnecessary, but also counterproductive in achieving the objective. Intellectual property is an incentive mechanism. If incentives are weakened there will be insufficient investment and effort to achieve the necessary vaccines, for example. On the other hand, there is no medicine or vaccine on which to apply a compulsory license. Can anyone mention a COVID-19 medicine, device or treatment that cannot be applied because intellectual property is an obstacle? Just as Kaletra holders released the drug, voluntary solutions are more efficient.
It is different that volunteer research consortia are promoted, where the cooperative effort accelerates the innovation process. But weakening intellectual property is a very bad idea and is only justified from a political discourse that does not know what intellectual property is for. If someone who is investing and risking to achieve a solution receives the message "when you get the solution, I will keep it without payment", the most logical thing is for that person to change their activity and dedicate themselves to something else that is not going to be expropriated.