US Approves Temporary Waiver Of Patent Protection; Know Its Significance For India

by Shatakshi Gupta

Recently, the US has supported India’s and South Africa’s demand to temporarily remove the patent on the Coronavirus vaccine.

 The US has said that it is committed to protecting intellectual property but supports the demand to phase out patents on the vaccine to combat this pandemic. This move of the US is being considered important for India and other countries. If the patent on the corona vaccine is removed, it will not only increase the production of the vaccine but will also reduce the prices of vaccines significantly.

In this context, let’s understand the significance of this move for India.

First of all, understand what is a patent?

 A patent is a legal right granted to a company, institution or person making any technology, discovery, service or design so that no one can copy it. In other words, a patent gives a monopoly to any company, institution or individual over the product.

For example,  Pfizer is making Coronavirus vaccine in the US.  Pfizer has a patent for this vaccine. Now if any other company wants to make Pfizer’s vaccine with the same formula, name or packing, then it will have to take permission and pay a royalty to Pfizer. If a company starts making a vaccine without permission, it will be illegal and Pfizer can sue that company.

Significance of this move

Currently, all the companies that are making Corona vaccines in the world have patents for that vaccine and only that company can manufacture that vaccine. If the patent on the vaccine is removed, then the technology to manufacture the vaccine will also be available to other companies, which will increase the production. This will eliminate the shortage of vaccine and will also reduce the cost of the vaccine.

 Poor countries are facing the most difficulty in the fight against Corona. Currently, around 80% of all the vaccine doses in the world have been given in high and middle-income countries. Since the cost of the vaccine is high, poor countries are unable to purchase the vaccine for their citizens. If the patent is removed, then the price will also be lower and the vaccine can be manufactured in poor countries at low cost.

Criticism of such waivers

Pharma companies around the world are opposing the move.  This is a big earning opportunity for pharma companies. Also, these companies say that they have made these vaccines by spending crores in research and development.

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 If the patent is removed from them, then these companies will incur losses. Intellectual property rights advocates say that this will dent the spirit of people who innovate and invent new products or technology. If a patent is not granted on an invention, then why would someone work hard and take time to invent a new one.

Countries in support

 In October last year, India and South Africa had asked the World Trade Organization (WTO) to remove the patent on the vaccine. More than 100 countries are currently supporting this demand of India and South Africa.  Recently, the US has also supported this initiative.

 About 100 members of the US House of Representatives (lower house) wrote a letter to President Joe Biden. The letter demanded that the patent be withdrawn from the vaccine.

However, a day before Biden’s decision, some Republican party leaders wrote letters demanding  Biden not to removepatent. Some countries, including the European Union and UK, are still opposing the patent removal.

How India can reap its benefits?

India is also facing a huge shortage of vaccines. Since May 1, the government has announced the introduction of a vaccine to all people over the age of 18, but many states have expressed the inability to vaccinate people due to a paucity of doses. The situation is that the registration portal for the vaccine crashed on the first day itself. Those who have registered on the portal are also having difficulty in booking an appointment due to a lack of vaccine doses.

 Being the second-most populous country in the world, India needs a huge quantity of vaccine doses.  In such a situation, if the patent is removed from the vaccine, then it will be a relief for India.

India is currently the second most infected country. More than 4 lakh new cases were detected yesterday. In such a situation, India needs to inoculate the population as soon as possible.