Pandemic: How to Patent PPE Kits in the midst of the COVID-19 Crisis

We are amidst an unprecedented health crisis that has impacted the entire world. The massive numbers infected with COVID-19 saw a sudden rise in demand for personal protective equipment. Heath workers and frontline Corona warriors rely on PPE to prevent the spread of infection, to and from them. MDE Patents took to finding out just how patenting in the time of crisis will work.

PPE items like gloves, face masks, goggles, face shields, gowns, etc. are extremely critical. The demand was far more than the existing supply or what limited manufacturers could provide. As we are still far from the Corona free world, worldwide companies are figuring out issues related to the intellectual property of PPE kits.

In such a crisis situation, countries are adopting the Compulsory Licensing of Patents. Compulsory licenses are authorizations by a sovereign state that allow a third party to manufacture, use, sell and/or distribute a product which has been patented, without obtaining consent or explicit permission/license of the patent owner.

An international legal agreement called Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights governs the provisions related to compulsory licensing. This understanding exists between all the member nations of the World Trade Organization. Provisions pertaining to compulsory licensing are governed internationally by the (TRIPS) between all the member nations of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

There are international organizations and not-for-profit companies that are also helping facilitate patent sharing. Some of these companies are also organizing and streamlining information about patents. World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) has also made a public statement that they would announce a policy to share patents.

More than 200 countries have come together to request WIPO to do away with licensing restrictions by intellectual property right owners. This is being done so that countries across the globe have equal access to PPE kits and other medical technology required to fight the disease.

There are certain initiatives being taken to encourage transfer or donation of intellectual property rights that can help manufacturers to produce the required PPE kits to address the current covid19 health crisis. One such initiative is the Open COVID-19 Pledge. This pledge is taken by companies manufacturing PPE kits and other COVID-19 related treatments. Companies that have become part of this pledge have agreed to grant non-exclusive and royalty-free licenses (which are applicable across the world) to use their existing patents and copyrights to manufacture PPE Kits.

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