WIPO responds on COVID

Sean Flynn at the American University Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property has posted about the World Intellectual Property Organization’s action with regard to coronavirus and intellectual property, some of which is responsive to the open letter I blogged about last month. Flynn writes, “The new initiatives and statement respond to many of the issues raised in an earlier letter from a broad coalition to WIPO’s Director General asking for a clear stance on intellectual property and the COVID pandemic.”

Open letter to WIPO re coronavirus

I was very happy to sign an open civil society letter to the World Intellectual Property Organization regarding urgent issues involving intellectual property and the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. It is still open for signatures.

The letter asks WIPO for four things:

  • Encourage countries that are members of WIPO to “take advantage of flexibilities … that permit uses of intellectual property-protected works for online education, for research and experimental uses, and for vital public interests, such as access to medicine and culture.”
  • Call on “all right holders to remove licensing restrictions that inhibit remote education, research … and access to culture … both to help address the global pandemic, and in order to minimise the disruption caused by it.”
  • Support Costa Rica’s request that the World Health Organization create rights pool of technology and data related to COVID-19, and also promoting measures such as compulsory license, antitrust enforcement, eliminate barriers to the making and selling of diagnostics and treatments.
  • Support the rights of countries to take advantage of exceptions in intellectual property law, including trade secret law, “to facilitate greater access to manufacturing information, cell lines, confidential business information, data, software, product blueprints, manufacturing processes, and other subject matter needed to achieve universal and equitable access to COVID-19 medicines and medical technologies as soon as reasonably possible.”

Unpaywalled Research on COVID-19

One of the things Ted Bailey and I talk about in our paper is how copyright and paywalls can create a barrier to the sharing of research findings. As we note, many traditional publishers have lowered their paywalls on coronavirus content, and pre-print servers are becoming an important source of information. Here’s links to some useful unpaywalled resources on coronavirus research.

These links are to COVID-19 specific content.

by Eric E. Johnson
[originally posted April 3, 2020; updated April 4, 2020 with additional links]

My new paper co-authored with Dr. Ted Bailey: Urgent Legal Lessons From a Very Fast Problem: COVID-19

I co-authored a short paper about the law and the coronavirus pandemic with Dr. Theodore C. Bailey, who is chief of infectious disease at Greater Baltimore Medical Center. It is forthcoming in the Stanford Law Review Online. The pre-print is available now on SSRN.

Here is the abstract:

“The course of a pandemic is dictated not just by biology, but also by law. And crucially, unlike biology, law can be readily adapted in response to a pandemic. Unfortunately, the current law does not take account of the compressed timeframe and rapidly changing social needs that distinguish pandemic times from normal times. We thus suggest three urgent, early lessons for law in the pandemic context: First, free information flows save lives, an observation which has ramifications for freedom of speech and press, copyright law, and patent law. Identifying particular hazards that patent law poses to the free flow of scientific research findings, we suggest a government-funded reward system as an adjunct to the patent system to incentivize pandemic-relevant research and its rapid publication. Second, politically accountable decisionmakers may not act optimally to save lives. We suggest a refashioned, politically insulated U.S. Public Health Service imbued with administrative independence in the vein of the Federal Reserve Board. Third, pre-crisis regulatory structures are not proving nimble enough in the midst of the pandemic. We suggest legislation that directs the FDA to be creative in designing case-by-case approval procedures for vaccines and other treatments to allow them to get to market much faster. To accelerate approvals while retaining scientific rigor, we suggest allowing well-informed, consenting human testing subjects to take on more uncertain risk than the FDA currently tolerates. In sum, we argue for a more general, systematic, and critical perspective on law in the special context of a pandemic.”

by Eric E. Johnson