A paper published by Dr Jorge Contreras, Dr Jenny Molloy and co-authors in Nature Biotechnology outlines the importance of voluntary pledges to make intellectual property broadly available to address urgent public health crises, arguing that they can overcome administrative and legal hurdles faced by more elaborate legal arrangements, such as patent pools, and achieve greater acceptance than governmental compulsory licensing.
“We have seen in previous crises how IP can be an enabler of innovation but also a barrier to rapid action and deployment of solutions across the globe,” says Jenny. “A good example is the campaign for global access to antiretrovirals for HIV/AIDS, which led to the establishment of the Medicines Patent Pool that makes IP available to manufacturers in developing countries. These mechanisms take years to establish and COVID-19 needed urgent solutions so I joined a group of scientists and lawyers to develop Open COVID Pledge as a way to give companies and universities a rapid route to tell the world that their IP can be freely used to address COVID-19. We were delighted by the enthusiastic response: SMEs, US National Labs, larger corporations like IBM and Microsoft and more have taken the Pledge, providing free access to over 250,000 patents for the purposes of containing and limiting the impact of the pandemic.”