The Race to Patent the Sars Virus: The Trips Agreement and Access to Essential Medicines
40 Pages Posted: 14 Oct 2004
This article considers the race to sequence the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome virus ('the SARS virus') in light of the debate over patent law and access to essential medicines. Part II evaluates the claims of public research institutions in Canada, the United States, and Hong Kong, and commercial companies, to patent rights in respect of the SARS virus. It highlights the dilemma of 'defensive patenting' - the tension between securing private patent rights and facilitating public disclosure of information and research. Part III considers the race to patent the SARS virus in light of wider policy debates over gene patents. It examines the application of such patent criteria as novelty, inventive step, utility, and secret use. It contends that there is a need to reform the patent system to accommodate the global nature of scientific inquiry, the unique nature of genetics, and the pace of technological change. Part IV examines the role played by the World Trade Organization and the World Health Organization in dealing with patent law and access to essential medicines. The article contends that there is a need to ensure that the patent system is sufficiently flexible and adaptable to accommodate international research efforts on infectious diseases.
Keywords: Patent law, the SARS virus, avian influenza, HIV/AIDS, malaria, TB, defensive patenting, gene patents, patent pooling, access to essential medicines, TRIPS agreement, world trade organization, world heath organization.
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