Better than a compromise, a third route: Using patent pools to accelerate access to vaccines and treatments against COVID-19

The debate on intellectual property that has been sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic tends to view vaccines and treatments as simple products whose manufacturing recipe needs only to be disseminated in order to make them available to all, especially to people in developing countries. When one takes into account the fact that the production of vaccines and treatments actually involves multiple technologies patented by several different entities, this debate is enriched: a third route can be identified, which is both more balanced than the options of simply maintaining or suspending patents on which the discussions are focused, without being reduced to a simple compromise between these two extremes. This article proposes a model to analyze the consequences of the implementation of a patent pool whose mission is to improve access to products on the final market. Its pricing policy is compared with two reference scenarios corresponding to the absence of a patent pool, on the one hand, and to the existence of a pool seeking to maximize the profit of innovators, on the other. The analysis highlights the positive role that a non-profit organization such as the Medicines Patent Pool can play in the global governance of the response to the pandemic.

de Villemeur E., Dequiedt V., Versaevel B. (2022) Mieux qu’un compromis, une troisième voie : le panier de brevets pour accélérer l’accès aux vaccins et traitements contre la COVID-19. Revue d’économie du développement, vol. 29(1), pp. 17-42.