Thu | Jan 28, 2021

Backing for pause on patents to COVID technologies

Published:Tuesday | March 31, 2020 | 12:28 AMPaul Clarke/Gleaner Writer

A request to undertake efforts to pool rights to technologies for the detection, control and treatment of the COVID-19 pandemic is being welcomed by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Organization of American States (OAS).

The proposal was made by Costa Rican President Carlos Alvarado Quesada. He said the move will provide for free access or licensing on reasonable and affordable terms to all member countries.

Tedros Adhanon Ghebreyesus, the WHO director, and Luis Almagro, secretary general of the OAS, have endorsed the initiative.

The proposal that was sent to Ghebreyesus includes the creation of a voluntary emergency Technology Intellectual Property Pool (TIPP) to accelerate scientific discovery, technology development, proof of safety/efficacy/quality, and broad sharing of the benefits of scientific advancement and its applications based on the right to health.

The inputs for the pool would come from governments, universities, research institutes, charities, private companies, and individuals who control rights.

“Given the urgency of this matter, Costa Rica proposes that the WHO develop an initial concise memorandum of understanding on the intent to share rights in technologies funded by the public sector and other relevant actors and reach out to WHO member states, non-profit institutions, industry, and others, to sign such an MOU,” Alvarado said.

He added that the specific technologies and the terms of the assignments can be determined later, in the implementation stage of the pool, after consultation with research and development funders and rights holders.

Alvarado pointed out that the world is behind in its effort to develop and supply the diagnostics, vaccines, therapeutics, medical devices, and other well-adapted medical technologies needed to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said that although scientific and medical urgency is building, people need to ensure that high-demand medical technologies will be developed and tested urgently, efficiently, and ethically with maximum degrees of open data, open science, and collaboration in development.

Costa Rica’s chargé d’affaires in Jamaica, Georgina Guillen, said that the proposed TIPP could be coordinated in the first instance by the WHO, after which the operational implementation might be assigned to other coordinating entities.

“The TIPP should be open to the broadest possible range of relevant intellectual property rights, including patent rights, manufacturing know-how, cell lines, technology blueprints, and specifications, copyright, software rights, clinical trial data, regulatory rights, research rights, and data rights,” Guillen said.

No exclusivity should stand in the way of governments’ and the global community’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.”