• Patent Pools and the Pandemic: A Renewed Debate

      Malkawi, Bashar; Univ Arizona, James E Rogers Coll Law (Council on Foreign Relations, 2020-08-14)
      As countries are still in the thick of fighting the COVID-19 health crisis and scientists and pharmaceutical companies are in the process of uncovering the molecular secrets of this novel coronavirus and developing potential vaccines, we need to revisit the issue of patent pools. During normal times in today's complex world, to produce certain goods and services, any manufacturer would have to obtain licenses to several interrelated patents, something that is known as the complements problem. Where there are many patents to obtain, this will complicate matters for innovation and indeed could lead to underuse of technologies and heavy patent costs. In order to simply the process, patent pools can be created between patent owners that bundle multiple pieces of intellectual property together, rather than on a patent-by-patent basis, into a single license so that they can license their patents to other parties collectively. Patent pools thus reduce transaction costs for licensees and preserve the financial incentive for patent holders to commercialize their products. All this seem easy and straightforward—in an ideal world. In reality, however, patent pools can create anticompetitive practices.