DMPQ-Define the TRIPS waiver or compulsory license. Also explain it’s importance in the wake of Covid-19 pandemic.

. Compulsory licensing is when a government allows someone else to produce a patented product or process without the consent of the patent owner or plans to use the patent-protected invention itself. It is one of the flexibilities in the field of patent protection included in the WTO’s agreement on intellectual property — the TRIPS (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) Agreement.

Some of the main platform technologies used to develop COVID-19 vaccines were used for the development of other vaccines before the pandemic and remain under patent control, such as those concerning the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine candidate.1 Patents have been identified on some of the frontrunner vaccine candidates, including the Pfizer/BioNTech candidate and the Moderna/NIH candidate. There is also a large portfolio of IP, such as hundreds of patents on mRNA technology – an alternative to traditional vaccine platforms – owned by different entities. One of the corporations has decided not to enforce their patents on mRNA vaccine technology during the pandemic, but this is not sufficient to provide legal certainty for all competent developers and manufacturers. Recent patents disputes on COVID-19 vaccine technologies demonstrate the impact of these IP barriers on the access options and prices of future vaccines, as possible injunctions could suspend the development and potential royalty payments could keep the final prices high.

With the ongoing research and development (R&D), different types of new IP might be sought on COVID-19 vaccine product, manufacturing process, method of use and related technologies, such as the cold-chain management system for vaccine storage. This calls for an all-encompassing solution that not only addresses patent barriers related to vaccines but also to related technologies and equipment. According to preliminary data, some patenting trends in vaccines have also started emerging. However, primary patents might only become visible in the coming months due to the 18-month embargo period.

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