Now that the nCoV coronavirus is a worldwide epidemic, the international community will likely be forced again to address the issues created by intellectual property ownership of potential vaccines and symptom treatments. The last two worldwide epidemics – H1N1 and Zika – exposed many problems and fewer solutions to the question of how to handle proprietary rights and research. The rush to apply existing drugs to treat symptoms of nCoV recalls the TamiFlu spike in the H1N1 epidemic, which involved the U.S. directly purchasing doses, resulting in a significant sales spike despite lingering questions of efficacy. The Zika outbreak was also a prime example of how the intersection of IP, commercial interests, and government can delay or destroy potential solutions. Ana Santos Rutschman’s article “IP Preparedness for Outbreak Disease” (65 UCLA Law Rev. Vol. 5 2018) is a comprehensive overview and worth a read. It’s also worth mentioning that HIV remains a worldwide epidemic and continues to result in patent-related disputes, such as the ongoing fight over Truvada and U.S. government royalties.
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