Dear WIPO: do not let IP-regimes hinder tackling the COVID-19 crisis

Open access to knowledge is more important than ever. Together with more than 300 organisations and personal endorsements we have sent a letter to Francis Gurry, Director-General at WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organisation). In the letter we urge Gurry to ensure that the intellectual property regime should not hinder efforts to tackle the Covid-19 crisis.

Some highlights from the letter:

We urge you to use your position as the leader of the global intellectual property system to take urgent action to guide Member States and others in their response to intellectual property issues that the coronavirus is raising. These steps should include:

  • Encouraging all WIPO member states to take advantage of flexibilities in the international system 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;
  • Calling on all right holders to remove licensing restrictions that inhibit remote education, research (including for text and data mining and artificial intelligence projects) and access to culture, including across borders, both to help address the global pandemic, and in order to minimise the disruption caused by it; 
  • Supporting the call by Costa Rica for the World Health Organization to create a global pool of rights in COVID-19 related technology and data, as well as promoting the use of the Medicines Patents Pool, voluntary licensing, intellectual property pledges, compulsory licensing, use of competition laws, and other measures to eliminate barriers to the competitive global manufacture, distribution and sale of potentially effective products to detect, prevent, and treat COVID-19.
  • Supporting countries’ rights to enact and use exceptions to trade secret and other intellectual property rights needed 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.

We hope WIPO will take this advice and help overcome the current crisis. You can read the whole letter here, which is still open for endorsements.


Image: the threatened swan, Jan Asselijn, Public Domain (Collection: Rijksmuseum)