- Patenting is the need of the hour as a constant source of security of motivation for the innovator.
- Public health and patenting rights need to be balanced keeping in mind the benefit of the public.
- Covid-19 has been a setback to majority countries yet the crisis needs to be solved either with patenting or no-patenting of the vaccines according to the need and circumstances.
- Patenting though is a boon for the innovators but might act as a bane for the public if the utilization and licensing is not done properly.
In the present technologically advanced world, internet access is available to almost every individual and the information availability is very easy. But the main issue that arises when the question of public health is raised is that it is difficult to recognize the correct information with regard to the health concern.
The health conditions with respect to existing diseases like malaria, HIV, etc. have been considerably under control due to the precautionary measures taken up by the government in spreading awareness of the public health issue and as well due to the availability of basic medical facilities for the treatment of the same.
The production of these medicines is a result of the constant researching and hard work of many scientists around the world. It is thus, very important for the countries’ and the producer’s interest that these innovations are brought under patenting rights which would be the fruit of their rigorous works.
The creativity of a person is not restricted to art and craft but also includes almost anything that a man invents. Patenting is done for giving the inventors sole right on the process of production or a product, design or their invention for a specific period of time. It is granted to the inventor by a Sovereign authority under the rules and procedure established by law.
The right of patent when designated to the inventor not only protects the efforts of the inventor in creation of his invention but also provides the society with the benefits of the products. This also provides the researchers with an opportunity in improving the existing procedure of production.
Patenting in Developing Countries
A major part of the world is lacking in access to basic medical facilities. The developing countries have a need for access to medications at a lower or affordable price but when an inventor puts his efforts and mind into the production, it is natural for him to expect a good consideration in exchange for revealing the patented product to the public. It is thus very important to keep the benefit of both the inventor and the public.
According to Article 31 of the TRIPs Agreement, the patent holder can provide the access to use the patent to any other person or organization when he is adequately remunerated for the same. It also would include government use licensing. This would ensure that the requirements of the public are being met and simultaneously that the patent holder has motivation to work further to invent more.
A medicine is created using various compositions of drug. When a medicine is patented, it does not restrict the production of other medicines using the same chemical substances which are popularly known as generic drugs. Upon the expiry of the period of patent right, the off-patent drug is allowed to be purchased for the consumers which leads to access to the medicines at a lower cost as this leads to competition in the market.
The developing countries tend to face difficulties when it comes to purchasing of medicines due to the high price of the medicines. The countries thus tend to try to negotiate with regard to the pricing of the medicines with the patent holder so that the economy of the country os not highly affected nor is the health of the public compromised.
The protected patents are exported to a country without the consent or knowledge of the patent holder from the market where it has been brought for circulation. This import of products is what is known as parallel importing.
This leads to reduction in the prices of the product and aids the countries in getting it for lowest prices but this practice is not appraisable as it works as a demotivation for the innovator.
Patenting Rights amidst Covid-19
Covid-19 disease has infected billions of people in a matter of few months which gave rise to a public health crisis. The virus is deadly and has led to the deaths of millions. The high rate of infection from contact and proximity led to the world wide lockdown of travels and social distancing.
The number of countries in the race to get a vaccine for the prevention of the disease was high. The vaccine production has to be initiated taking into consideration, the efficacy of the vaccine at various stages of trial and permission of the Government.
Even then, the patenting procedure needs to be completed so as to ensure that the hard work of the scientists in coming up with the vaccine is not wasted. But this creates an imbalance between the right to protect the patent and the concern to protect the public health.
Considering the current scenario of the new variants of the virus and the increasing number of cases all over the world, the rich countries that are members of the World Trade Organization and World Health Organization have waived patenting rights for the vaccines which would enable the production of the generic vaccines at various sites and make it available to the public in general. Since the procedure for obtaining a patent is a long procedure, it would only delay the outreach of the vaccines to the countries that are not able to afford the vaccines provided by the richer countries at a higher rate.
The companies that have already obtained a license for the vaccines like Astra Zeneca have started the sharing of their license to make the production at multiple sites whereas other companies like Pfizer have started the distribution of technology for finishing the vaccines.
The right to get the innovative work patented works as a benefit and as a loss as well. When the question of public health is concerned, the need for right to health and human life protection is higher than the need for protection of creative innovation.
No doubt the creativity of the innovator needs to be protected but the widespread effect of the diseases as a concern to public health also needs to be dealt with.
Though the patenting of vaccines can be used for the benefit of the public in better access to the Covid-19 vaccine, at the same time, no-patenting would also enable the production of generic medication facilities for the public.