With two-thirds of the world in lockdown and no clear way out of the novel coronavirus crisis, it’s increasingly obvious that biopharmaceutical innovation will play a pivotal role. A new treatment that can mitigate the worst effects of COVID-19, and ultimately a preventative vaccine, could, literally, save the world. Such life-saving technology is less likely to be forthcoming if, in their panic, governments sacrifice intellectual property (IP) rights for new COVID-19 therapeutics and vaccines. The signs are not promising. IP-skeptic governments in Chile and Ecuador have taken preemptive measures by permitting compulsory licensing of any new COVID-19-related technology. Otherwise innovation-friendly Canada and Germany have passed legislation to issue compulsory licenses more easily. Even in the United States—the center of modern biopharmaceutical innovation and a major player in ongoing COVID-19 research and development (R&D) efforts—there is pressure to break patents.
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