The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the adoption of collaborative research. Data and papers are shared for free daily on preprint servers or platforms such as GISAID. However, intellectual property rights and specifically patents curtail the progress of open sharing.

To address that, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the European Union are solidly backing the creation of patent pools for pharmaceutical drugs. In contrast, the US and the UK have pushed against it recently.

While on the one hand patent pools help in innovation, on the other they raise concerns of anti-competitive behaviour. Two different pool strategy is being proposed, one compulsory, the other voluntary. While the industry has been lobbying for the voluntary one, government and advocacy groups prefer the mandatory pool.

Each solution has it’s merits and flaws. The compulsory pool raise concerns for anti-competitive behaviour. In contrast, the voluntary pool raises concern as to how an optional pool can incentivize firms and pharma companies to share their IP.

The jury is still out as to which pool system will be adopted. In the meantime, large pharmaceutical consortiums are already forming creating mini private IP pool to win the race for a Covid-19 vaccine and treatment.

June 06, 2020
COVID patent pool