Pandemic, Patents and Public Health

Manchikanti, Padmavati ; Dias, Michelle


The COVID-19 pandemic has compelled a relook at public healthcare and the patent systems. It has brought to halt livelihoods with devastating consequences to people’s lives national economies. Global health security is at stake as there is a need to develop and deploy more vaccines, repurpose medicines and increase medical infrastructure support. Collaboration and collective response is imperative at international and national levels. IPR access is crucial in relation to public health. Many countries have issued new policies and enacted laws to make it easier for them to supply medicines to their population during the pandemic. Compulsory licensing has been used as an important mechanism to open up IP without the permission of patent holders. The present study analyses amendments to patent law and IP legislations that are effected from a cross country perspective during the pandemic time. It also examines international cooperation in the context of public health and IP under the TRIPS Agreement in view of the on-going consultation at the WTO. The study reveals differences in approaches to ‘governmental use’ of patents and access to know-how under the statutory framework. Improving the scope of use of products and process patents, suspension of patent term extension, consolidating the compulsory licensing mechanism, removal of inequity are the predominant aspects that are part of the amendments to patent law in the countries. Pandemics like COVID-19 need legislative initiatives to secure healthcare system access for all citizens. Healthcare access includes ready availability of basic vaccines, drugs, medical devices and medical infrastructure. There is often a clash between access to healthcare as a fundamental right on one hand and the need to award monopolies in the form of IP rights as an incentive for innovations from the pharmaceutical industry on the other. Hence, obstacles arise in decision-making to balance innovation incentives and ensuring rights to access healthcare. Judicial decision-making and public policy-making have been always at the centre stage in earlier epidemics and now in the current pandemic making it imperative for countries to protect the health interests of their citizens.


Pandemic; Covid-19; Public Health; Compulsory Licensing; TRIPS Agreement; Patents

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