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CDT Joins 140+ Asking WIPO to Ensure IP Laws Don’t Hinder Responses to COVID-19

Director General Francis Gurry
World Intellectual Property Organization
34, chemin des Colombettes CH-1211
Geneva 20, Switzerland

Dear Dr Gurry,
We write to you as organisations and individuals representing researchers, educators, students, and the institutions that support them, to encourage WIPO to take a clear stand in favour of ensuring that intellectual property regimes are a support, and not a hindrance, to efforts to tackle both the Coronavirus outbreak and its consequences.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shone a bright light on how important intellectual property limitations and exceptions can be to development and human flourishing. Researchers discovered the spread of the virus through a text and data mining project analyzing copyrighted news articles , enabled by Canada’s flexible fair dealing right for research 1 purposes. The earliest potential treatments have been developed through existing medicines, enabled by experimental use exceptions to patent rights.

Now, schools, universities, libraries, archives, museums and research institutes across the world, forced to close their buildings, are transferring materials online and providing remote access, but only where copyright laws permit. However, these and other critical activities to overcome the crisis are not being performed everywhere – including where subscriptions have been paid in advance – because they are not lawful everywhere.

We have seen helpful steps from a number of countries, and from some right holders themselves, to facilitate access to academic articles and other works, educational and cultural materials, research data, chemical libraries, and needed medicines and medical devices that are subject to intellectual property rights. These steps are to be lauded. But much more is
needed. And WIPO can help lead the way.

We urge you to use your position as the leader of the global intellectual property system to take urgent action to guide Member States and others in their response to intellectual property issues that the coronavirus is raising.