Patent pools: should rights owners give up their IP?


Rory O'Neill

Patent pools: should rights owners give up their IP?

zimmytws /

Pressure is building on IP owners to offer up access to technology that could help fight COVID-19. Rory O'Neill looks at some of the implications for the patent system.

Health systems on almost every continent are threatened with being overrun by COVID-19, and face acute shortages of essential, life-saving equipment. Governments have responded with a call to arms, taking steps to facilitate the mass production of ventilators in an effort to up the capacity of intensive care units.

Those working in IP have quickly spotted the potential for patent rights to be an obstacle to this retooling effort. Governments and civil society have recognised this too, and several different remedies have been proposed in order to ensure that IP is not an impediment to the world’s COVID-19 response.

One approach that has gained traction in recent weeks is patent pools. Pressure is now building on companies with IP that could be valuable to voluntarily license it, on an open-access basis.

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