Experts warn against making pandemic worse with patent changes

By WND Staff

 

Andres Arredondo, an audio, visual and broadcast engineer, works in the control room of the Pentagon Briefing Room during a news conference about National Guard response efforts to the COVID-19 pandemic, April 8, 2020. Air Force Gen. Joseph L. Lengyel, chief of the National Guard Bureau, and Army Brig. Gen. D. Keith Waddell, adjutant general of Louisiana, conducted the briefing. (DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando)

The Electronic Frontier Foundation contends extending the length of patents in the United States is “exactly the wrong response” to the coronavirus pandemic.

Patents?

EFF explained governments “are taking steps to make sure that private corporations don’t use the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to make unjustified monopoly profits.”

“They’re doing that by ensuring that governments can override patents and issue compulsory licenses for COVID-19 related treatments, vaccines, and tools,” EFF said.

“Canada’s recent COVID-19 bill authorizes the government to make and use patented inventions as needed in fighting the pandemic. Governments in Chile, Ecuador, Germany, and Israel have taken similar steps.”

However, in the United States, Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., introduced a bill that gives 10 extra years of patent rights on top of the usual 20 years to any “new or existing pharmaceutical, medical device, or other process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter.”

The measure is in a bill about limiting medical lawsuits.

EFF conceded it prevents COVID-19 patents from taking effect until the current emergency ends.

“But that reasonable limitation is coupled with an unnecessary and damaging giveaway of 10 extra years of patent exclusivity,” EFF said.

The report said patents that come from publicly funded university research already are problematic, since taxpayers funded the research.

“And let’s be clear: the fruits of any research into COVID-19 in the U.S. will rest on an enormous bedrock of public funding. The third stimulus bill gave billions of dollars to research on COVID-19 therapies and vaccines, including nearly $1 billion in research money given to the National Institutes of Health, as well more than $75 million research funding to each of the National Science Foundation, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Department of Energy,” the foundation reported.

“That’s all on top of the earlier $8.3 billion coronavirus bill, which authorized more than $3 billion for vaccine research. The public has the right to benefit from that use of public research money, not see it locked up by patents.”

The foundation said, “In this case, the correct price point for a coronavirus vaccine is already clear: it should be free. When Jonas Salk created a polio vaccine, he understood it had to be owned by ‘the people,’ and not subject to patents of any kind.”

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