On June 12 of last year, a few short months into a pandemic which, by then, had already reached all corners of the globe, the present author made a prediction concerning the IP barriers to distribution of the various Covid vaccines that were, at the time, in the very early stages of their development “Hurdles in the Race for a Covid-19 Vaccine?“. The general thesis put forward in that article was that governments across the world would sooner guillotine their IP consultants in a public square than take their opinions seriously on the subject of vaccine rollouts. After all; two birds, one stone.
Although it is too early to declare that prediction as borne out, the early signs of the all-too-predictable contention over vaccine patents are now coming to the fore. The activities of the mainstream media tend to be a harbinger of things to come and, to be sure, there have been no shortage of publications on the subject in recent weeks. These publications have not been geographically restricted either. Here are a just a few articles that were published online over the past couple of weeks:
South China Morning Post writes “Waive Covid-19 Patents to help Poor Nations Now”
Medicins Sans Frontiers writes “Countries Obstructing Covid-19 Patent Waiver Must Allow Negotiations to Start”
BBC News writes “Rich States Block Vaccine Plans for Developing Nations”
Reuters writes “Brazil Judge Suspends Drug Patent Extensions, Move May Lower Covid-19 Treatment Costs”
More recently, and perhaps most noteworthy, however:
Forbes writes “Biden Facing Calls to Waive Covid Patents, Allowing Other Companies to Make Pfizer and Moderna’s Vaccines.”
This last article by Forbes prompted the writing of the present bulletin. Whilst the present contention over patent protection was predictable from the moment the development of the various vaccines by the likes of Pfizer, Moderna etc. were first announced, I admittedly did not consider the possibility that the US government could succumb to pressure to shelve its own intellectual property laws in order to facilitate the distribution of US vaccines to third country nationals.
Given the level of resilience to political pressure of the US administration at the time, I can retrospect as to why the possibility did not seem realistic. I am sure that readers of all political stripes can agree that the current US president is, for better or worse, rather more inclined to yield to the wants and needs of the international community than his predecessor. Whether this will result in the moratorium that some have called for is left to be seen, however I maintain my thesis that whatever the US administration decides, obstacles to vaccine rollouts grounded in IP rights will prove futile in the end. One way or another, countries across the world will obtain the vaccine at a price they can afford, by any means necessary, trampling over every syllable of IP legislation under the sun in the process.
This document does not purport to give legal, financial or tax advice. The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Mamo TCV. Should you require further information or legal assistance, please do not hesitate to contact Dr. Jonathan Tonna.