Dhaka Law Review hosted a webinar on May 22, 2020 titled 'Will Intellectual Property Rights Hinder Access to COVID-19 Treatment?' The speakers were two of the leading experts on intellectual property law – Dr Henning Grosse Ruse-Khan, University Reader at the University of Cambridge and Professor Rochelle C Dreyfuss of New York University School of Law. Eshaya Binte Hassan, Editor-in-Chief of Dhaka Law Review moderated the discussion. The Facebook pages of Dhaka Law Review and the Daily Star live-streamed the event.
The discussion explored whether the cure for COVID-19 would be accessible to other countries of the world, especially least developed countries (LDCs) such as Bangladesh, when one country discovers the cure. The experts also discussed whether pharmaceutical companies would be keen to assert patents during this pandemic given the public backlash such a move might provoke, what would change when Bangladesh leaves the LDC category, and what steps Bangladesh can take to prepare for the change.
Dr Ruse-Khan said, 'There is a system under WTO Agreements which deals with how countries deal with IP rights. Bangladesh, at the moment, does not have many obligations being an LDC, but the situation would change if it were to change its status from being an LDC.' He also said, 'If Bangladesh does decide to leave that particular status, a good thing would be to be informed and have an IP strategy, not only for domestic industry, but also for domestic consumers. The switch from LDC to non-LDC should not be taken lightly and IP considerations should be taken into account.'
Professor Dreyfuss opined that considering the situation, neither any major country nor major pharmaceutical companies will try to invoke IP rights over treatment over COVID-19 even if they have the means to do so. She also said that Bangladesh is fortunate because it has a generic drug industry with which it can make the treatments itself. For treatments, one can make it themselves and sell to other countries as well. But vaccines are going to be a harder problem. Once 2024 rolls over and Bangladesh becomes an LDC, in her opinion, it will be somewhat a different situation. She also said that as the TRIPS Agreement allows LDCs to manufacture for one another, so Bangladesh can group together with other countries who can contribute and manufacture for each other; that would be very good for now and would be helpful for the generic drug industry in the future.
Established in 2013, Dhaka Law Review is the first of its kind law journal in Bangladesh edited and managed independently by a cohort of Dhaka University law students. The Law Review holds public lectures to present cutting-edge research on topical issues before the widest possible audience to provoke discussions and debate.
The event was covered by Ahmed Ragib Chowdhury, Editor at Dhaka Law Review.