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TAKEAWAY: The WHO recently launched a COVID-19 Technology Access Pool to unite patent rights, regulatory test data, and other information that can be used to develop COVID-19 therapies, vaccines, and diagnostics.

In late May, the World Health Organization (WHO) launched a COVID-19 Technology Access Pool (C-TAP) aimed at making vaccines, tests, treatments, and other technologies to fight COVID-19 accessible to all. Participation in C-TAP is voluntary and intended to provide a one-stop shop for scientific knowledge, data, and intellectual property to be shared by the global community. Among other objectives, the initiative seeks to promote non-exclusive licensing of technologies to public health research and development mechanisms, including the Medicines Patent Pool (MPP), a United Nations-backed public health body established in 2010 to assist low- and middle-income countries in access to medicines, primarily to treat HIV, hepatitis C, and tuberculosis.

Some of the world’s largest drug makers have expressed resistance to the initiative, citing concerns about disincentivizing innovation and dangers of circumventing IP protections, while also noting other platforms like the MPP already exist. Indeed, AbbVie has entered into royalty-free licensing agreements with the MPP, including for its HIV drug Kaletra® (lopinavir/ritonavir) which is under investigation for potential treatment of COVID-19. None of the countries making up the “IP5,” i.e., the five largest IP offices including the USPTO, European Patent Office, Japan Patent Office, Korean Intellectual Property Office, and the National Intellectual Property Administration of the People’s Republic of China – have signed onto C-TAP to-date. Further, on July 7, 2020, President Trump announced his decision to withdraw the United States from the WHO, anticipating withdrawal to take effect on July 6, 2021.

The USPTO recently established its own IP marketplace platform, Patents 4 Partnerships, to promote commercialization and technology transfer in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of COVID-19.