On May 5, 2021, the Biden Administration announced its support for waiving intellectual property protections for COVID-19 vaccines. Understandably, the news made headlines and stirred passionate reactions from the medical community and IP holders alike. But actually bringing about that waiver will be a complicated process, and one that depends on many countries and parties besides the United States.
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The development timeline for small-molecule drugs and biologics is lengthy, estimated to take between 10 and 15 years. As a result, pharmaceutical companies need to consider freedom to operate issues long before they receive FDA approval or market their new product. These considerations might lead a company to take a license, seek to invalidate a competitor’s patent, or some combination of the two. The Patent Trial and Appeal Board (“PTAB”) is a popular venue for challenging patent validity and in 2020, Bio/Pharma and Chemical Patents accounted for 12% of petitions filed at the PTAB.