Covid-19: Why 'patent bundling' makes more sense than ever

Published on 09/06/2020
Covid-19: Why 'patent bundling' makes more sense than ever

An article about how some pharmaceutical and biotech companies are using patent bundling to accelerate important R&D activity during the pandemic.

Covid-19: Why ‘patent bundling’ is more useful than ever 

As many innovative biotech businesses will know, the practice of bundling patents together to make them more attractive to potential licensees and other interested parties can bring significant rewards. But in the context of the current pandemic, could it bring wider benefits?

In some cases, ‘patent bundles’ can provide a basis for strategic collaborations; helping to accelerate development and create market opportunities. For third parties pursuing research in a similar field, the main benefit is the ability to in-license them in-license as a group and avoid the risk of missing a key patent, which could lead to delays and potential infringement action.

As patent bundles usually feature in the terms and conditions of specific commercial agreements, they are often confidential. However, since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, the increased urgency surrounding much R&D activity, in areas such as medical diagnostics and drug development, has highlighted their usefulness in expediting collaboration.

While progressing their own R&D programmes, many biotech and pharmaceutical companies have demonstrated a willingness to collaborate and share their  knowledge with others. This is likely to involve bundling patented technologies together, in order to make them more accessible to those operating in a similar field of research.

Some companies have agreed to waive their IP rights in some way. For example, if clinical trials for Remdesivir prove successful and the drug gets regulatory approval for the treatment of Covid-19, Gilead Sciences has pledged to make 1.5 million individual doses available free of charge. Abbvie has also announced that it will not enforce its intellectual property rights on trials involving the use of Kaletra, a drug combination currently used to treat HIV. Among the most exciting collaborations that have taken place since the onset of the pandemic, are those that involve private companies teaming up with academic research teams to support clinical trials and line up production capacity.

The pace of research activity directed to Covid-19 is unprecedented and the commercial risks being taken by individual companies to accelerate clinical trials and bet on positive outcomes are incredible and deserve recognition. While patent bundling was widely used long before the pandemic, it has never been more useful to society as a whole, and it is likely to remain part of the intellectual property strategy of many biotech and pharmaceutical companies in the future.

Dr Joanna Thurston is a partner and patent attorney at European intellectual property firm, Withers & Rogers LLP

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