Vaccines and

intellectual property

A proposal to waive intellectual property rights on COVID-19 vaccines at the World Trade Organisation posed a challenge for CIPA and the patenting profession. It was important for us to raise awareness of the issues and we worked throughout the year to ensure that the fundamental good provided by the patent system was understood. A carefully researched and cross-referenced news article was published in May covering the waiver which established CIPA’s position that temporarily lifting patent protection for vaccines would be counterproductive and could set a dangerous precedent.

In June, CIPA held a public panel discussion, Patents in pandemics: A force for good, with vaccine scientists Dr Anne Moore from the Centre for Global Development at University College Cork, and Professor Robin Shattock, Head of Mucosal Infection and Immunity, Imperial College, London. They were joined by Simon Wright, Chair of CIPA’s Life Sciences Committee. The event was chaired by Gwilym Roberts, CIPA’s Honorary Secretary.

Dr Moore and Professor Shattock argued that patents had not been a block to rapid global manufacture and deployment of COVID-19 vaccines and that waiving patent rights would not have the desired short-term effect. They both agreed that talk of a patent waiver was a distraction from the real priorities: improving technology transfer to, and manufacturing capacity in, lower-income countries and agreeing appropriate costs for the vaccines in those countries. Prof Shattock and Dr Moore were unequivocal in their view that patents were not the problem and that such a waiver could, in fact, harm efforts to develop vaccines for variants and future viruses by creating a disincentive to research and investment.

CIPA also recorded a vaccine special episode of our podcast with geneticist and Chartered Patent Attorney Anton Hutter, of Venner Shipley, and Frank Tietze, lecturer for technology and innovation management at Cambridge University. The episode explored how vaccines and the patent system work together to aid innovation and development of new vaccines.

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