What is a poor mans patent?

Pfizer assigns patent on its anticovid treatment to 95 countries

Novartis has challenged the denial of patent protection for the drug and the case is being heard by India’s Supreme Court. Either side opposing sides about the issue say the case has major implications for global health.

“If a novel compound like this can’t be patented in India, there could be big consequences for innovation in India and elsewhere,” said Paul Herrling, head of research at Novartis. “This is not really about Gleevec,” added Herrling. “This is just part of a much deeper issue.”

If Novartis wins in an Indian court, it would seriously attack the generic drug industry, Rius said, diminishing the role of major generic drug suppliers and limiting access to generics, which in poor countries can mean the difference between life and death.

“The patent system in India holds that it is not a novel drug, something that several patent systems in other countries have already recognized,” he said. “When the patent was denied to us, we were shocked… If this is the way the law is going to be applied, innovation will suffer.”

Covid-19 vaccines in dispute over patents and intellectual property rights.

The call of these nations was welcomed by the administration of Joe Biden, President of the United States, who in May assured that he would propose the temporary suspension of the intellectual property rights that protect the technological development behind vaccines.

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The proposal of a group of poor countries consists of the suspension of the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) that protect drugs, vaccines and technologies developed to face the pandemic.

The initial rejection of the request, explained the WTO, was due to the fact that the intellectual property protection criteria between countries are not the same and it is not clear how the patents will be used in the event of their release, nor the rules or the scope over time.

However, the body that regulates international trade called on the opposing countries not to have a binary vision, but to work towards reaching agreements that would allow access to pandemic-related medical development to all countries, especially low-income countries.


El Acuerdo sobre los ADPIC introdujo cambios muy importantes en las normas internacionales relativas a los derechos de propiedad intelectual. Debido a sus implicaciones de gran alcance, es uno de los componentes más controvertidos del sistema de la OMC. A iniciativa de los países en desarrollo, la preocupación por las implicaciones del Acuerdo sobre los ADPIC en la salud pública se reflejó en la adopción de la Declaración de Doha sobre el Acuerdo sobre los ADPIC y la salud pública, en 2001. La Declaración fue seguida por una Decisión del Consejo de los ADPIC en 2003 sobre la aplicación de su párrafo 6. En este artículo, el autor afirma que, tal como se ha adoptado, es poco probable que la aplicación del párrafo 6 ejerza una fuerte presión sobre los titulares de patentes para que bajen sus precios o negocien licencias voluntarias. El autor destaca que es probable que continúen las controversias, sobre todo porque los países desarrollados buscan una protección ADPIC plus mediante la interpretación o la negociación de acuerdos bilaterales y regionales, y porque se conceden patentes sobre desarrollos triviales que se utilizan para bloquear o retrasar la competencia de los genéricos.

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Raiders With Patents – The Weather Board

There are a hundred countries within the WTO that support the initiative of India and South Africa. But many others, such as the United States and the European Union as a bloc, oppose the exemption of patents on vaccines. For the time being, negotiations are at a standstill.

Médecins Sans Frontières advocates this strategy because of the lower prices that would result and the increase in production. “We must never forget that medicines are not just any other consumer good, but are often indispensable,” says Raquel Gonzalez, spokesperson for MSF. Impoverished countries would have control over the production and distribution of vaccines. Bernabé Zea, professor at the Patent Center of the University of Barcelona, does not believe that this is the way forward: “It seems complicated that such a complex product can be made in an underdeveloped country. The time it would take us now in a third country to start from scratch, to set up a factory to be able to make this product, would not make much sense”.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, almost a thousand clinical trials have been launched for dozens of treatments and vaccines against the coronavirus. Pharmaceuticals defend that patents have been the reason this record-breaking innovation has been possible.  “We may think that getting the patent out of the way would be a good thing, but we would have a terrible side effect. We would tell the pharmaceutical industry not to invest because once the results are achieved, the patent will be taken away and you won’t be able to recover the investment.” In other words, the pharmaceutical companies say that patents work as an incentive. “This is the usual discourse of the pharmaceutical industry. Patents, by definition, make it difficult to share knowledge,” counter-argues Vanessa López, of Salud por Derecho.

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