Compulsory Licensing of Trade Secrets: Ensuring Access to COVID-19 Vaccines via Involuntary Technology Transfer
Forthcoming, Journal of Intellectual Property Law & Practice (2021)
29 Pages Posted: 28 Jun 2021 Last revised: 30 Aug 2021
Date Written: June 23, 2021
This paper considers how vaccine technology to meet the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic can be made available to increase the production of vaccines. Its primary focus is on trade secrets, which are one of the main intellectual property rights protecting the complex manufacturing processes of vaccine production. The compulsory licensing of trade secrets presents some unique obstacles and consideration is given to some practical solutions that might balance the interests of technology owners and the public interest in increased access to vaccines. In particular, this paper suggests that to make the currently discussed proposals on accelerating the production of COVID-19 vaccines, including compulsory licensing of patents and the IP waiver, work, an additional mechanism of compulsory licensing of trade secrets is required. It is believed that a proposal for a new mechanism of compulsory licensing of trade secrets coupled with a discussion on the content of such licences, challenges that would need to be addressed and the potential wording of such a licence, would provide useful guidance to governments on how to make their compulsory technology transfer mechanisms more effective.
Keywords: COVID-19 vaccines, compulsory licensing, IP waiver, TRIPS, patents, trade secrets, technology transfer
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