Today is world IP day, a day to ponder our IP choices, philosophies and commitments. We are going through a very tough phase, and are witnessing several established systems crumble. Knowingly or involuntarily, we took some of them for granted and deemed certain others essential. In the face of abnormality, many of them have failed, and many more might follow suit. Will the present IP system be one of them?
Incentivizing innovation and creativity forms an integral part of the fight against COVID-19, and this is acknowledged by Governments, academics, businesses and public interest groups. The statement of WIPO’s Director General, Francis Gurry, reflects this understanding. On the occasion of World IP day, he said, “Innovation provides options and is the key to unlocking the solutions and approaches we need to create a sustainable and green future.” He believes that IP incentives driven innovation holds great promise, and the said belief forms part of the written statement he issued on IP considerations for innovation, accessibility and affordability during COVID time.
The value of IP incentives in promoting inventive and creative activity has been controversial even when all is well. Several valid questions have been raised about the role of the IP system in inventive and creative activity, and the scholarship on the subject is equally divided at best. Under the present circumstances, when the world is facing a serious human and health crisis, the value of the IP system is more questionable than earlier. The Director General’s ardent support to the IP incentive framework, and his suggestion that removal of IP barriers must be limited to demonstrated cases of access problems, extols the value of IP beyond reasonable limits. This view is substantiated by his implication that there may be no innovation to access without the IP system.
In reality, COVID related innovation initiatives are being led by Government action, collaboration, cooperation and open systems. Under the circumstances, what is required is decisive Government policy aimed at removing intellectual property barriers to innovation, access and affordability. By doing so through emergency law, compulsory licensing, Government use, or any other mechanism, Governments can provide the much needed incentives for collaborative action. It is time to stop putting intellectual property ahead of everything else, and focus on open and cooperative efforts, which hold greater promise for COVID vaccines, tests and cures. A balanced message from WIPO’s Director General on this world IP day, which acknowledges the limitations of the IP system, and need for open and collaborative action would have been a better choice for a better tomorrow.
BananaIP urges companies and research institutions in India to join the Open COVID Pledge.
- World Intellectual Property Day 2020 – Innovate for a Green Future, available at: https://www.wipo.int/ip-outreach/en/ipday/2020/dg_message.html, visited on 26th April, 2020.
- Some Considerations on Intellectual Property, Innovation, Access and COVID-19, available at: https://www.wipo.int/export/sites/www/about-wipo/en/dgo/pdf/ip_innovation_and_access_24042020.pdf, visited on 25th April, 2020.