Nafsika Karavida Discusses U.S. and EU Approaches to Vaccine Patents and Compulsory Licensing Amid COVID-19

U.S. and EU Approaches to Vaccine Patents and Compulsory Licensing Amid COVID-19Governments, pharmaceutical companies and medical researchers around the world are racing to produce a vaccine for COVID-19, as well as potential drugs to fight the virus in those who contract it. The numbers show at least 70 reported potential vaccines and 150 other drugs for treatment that are in development right now. But the race for developing the drugs isn’t singular: it’s also a race to secure patents—and thus, eventual profits—for them. With broad concerns over access to what are likely to be expensive vaccines and drugs for the virus, though, many wonder whether or not the patents and cost will create unreasonable barriers to widespread access where needed throughout the world during this pandemic. But as RPJ Associate Nafsika Karavida (admission pending) assures in a new article on the issue for, under certain circumstances patent owners can in fact be forced to grant license for a COVID-19 vaccine to benefit humanity on the whole (and not just a limited wealthy pool of society) thanks to something called compulsory licensing. Governing bodies, however, take differing approaches to compulsory licensing, which could have dissonant impacts on vaccine access.

“There are ways to ensure access to life-saving medicines, including a future COVID-19 vaccine. However, the European Union and the United States, which constitute the largest economies in the world, have diverging views on compulsory licensing,” Karavida says. Her article, “Patent Rights and Wrongs in the COVID-19 Pandemic: EU and U.S. Approaches to Compulsory Licensing,” dives into the matter and highlights how governments can secure public access to a patented vaccine (including the role of the World Trade Organization’s Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights Agreement), the limitations on compulsory licensing and the distinct differences between the EU and U.S. approaches—and how the pandemic response could be affected by them.

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Ms. Karavida authored the article with editorial assistance from RPJ Patent Counsel Dara L. Onofrio, Partners Deena R. Merlen and Heidi Reavis, and Counsel Ethan Krasnoo.