COVID-19 and Knowledge Commons

According to the incentive theory of intellectual property law, an exclusive right granted to intellectual property stimulates further innovation and creativity. In the face of COVID-19 crisis, we don’t have therapeutic and vaccine. Rapid innovation in responding COVID-19 is more urgent than ever.  Then, we have to grant, in accordance with the incentive theory, greater rewards to innovators of COVID-19 responding health technologies. For instance, an inventor may hold 40-year long patent right when s/he invents a vaccine. Or an inventor may be rewarded by damages ten times the actual harm caused by a patent infringement. Interestingly, nobody proposes this solution. The solutions presented by international bodies are exactly the opposite. Not the exclusive ownership but collaborative sharing of knowledge.

When WHO made public its plan to launch a COVID-19 technology pool, the Director-General said that “WHO … will, in the next few weeks, launch a platform for open, collaborative sharing of knowledge, data and intellectual property on existing and new health tools to combat COVID-19“. “unprecedented level of partnership”, “groundbreaking collaboration” and “landmark collaboration” are words the WHO DG has most frequently used when calling for ensuring fair distribution and equitable access to COVID-19 tools.

Now WHO issued a solidarity call to action for making the response to COVID-19 a public common good. The solidarity call to action includes to:

voluntarily pool knowledge, intellectual property and data necessary for COVID-19. Shared knowledge, intellectual property and data will leverage our collective efforts to advance scientific discovery, technology development and broad sharing of the benefits of scientific advancement and its applications based on the right to health.

So far, 37 countries officially join the Action: Argentina, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belgium, Belize, Bhutan, Brazil, Chile, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Honduras, Indonesia, Lebanon, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Maldives, Mexico, Mongolia, Mozambique, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Palau, Panama, Peru, Portugal, Saint Vincent and Grenadines, South Africa, Sri Lanka,Sudan, The Netherlands, Timor-Leste, Uruguay, Zimbabwe.