Intellectual Property Rights, the Public Interest and COVID-19

Research output: Other contribution


In the grip of a world pandemic of COVID-19 when scientists are racing to develop a cure, the idea of anyone claiming intellectual property rights to the exclusive use of the cure may seem difficult to rationalise. Yet patents are intended to benefit the public by encouraging technological advancement through granting inventors a limited exclusive period to exploit their inventions. How could these two points intersect in the context of the present emergency? Some companies have heeded calls to adapt their business practices to fill an unprecedented demand for hand sanitisers to slow the spread of the coronavirus. No patent issue is at play. Some of the sanitisers are, however, branded by the companies which manufacture them (notable examples are LVMH and BrewDog) and then donate to those in need, particularly hospitals. This enables the public interest to be addressed while also raising the profile of the brand in the marketplace. These brands may be protected in doing so in law by registered trade marks and the law of passing off in the United Kingdom. There may be similar opportunities by which pharmaceutical companies can deliver a widely-accessible cure that will advance both public and corporate interests.
Original languageEnglish
Media of outputSchool of Law Blog
PublisherUniversity of Aberdeen: School of Law
Publication statusPublished - 7 Apr 2020

Publication series

NameCantre for Commercial Law
PublisherUniversity of Aberdeen


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