UK Labour Party policy on patent licensing

IP Draughts was very interested to hear comments from Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the UK Labour Party, at yesterday’s annual Labour Party Conference. The comments indicated that the Labour Party had a new policy on patent licensing – wow!

To be more specific, he was talking about measures to reduce the price of pharmaceutical drugs, including compulsory licensing. The comments appeared to reflect proposals in this policy paper. The paper throws out lots of ideas; it is not clear how close any of them is to a final party policy. They include:

  • increased use of Crown Use provisions in the Patents Act 1977, with the suggestion that compensation may not be paid to the patent owner for such use.
  • moving away from EU data exclusivity laws and protection for SPCs, after Brexit.
  • requiring an access strategy to be agreed with recipients of public funding (e.g. research grants) to either waive IP rights or allow open licensing, or invest (e.g. via royalties) in future public activities
  • reducing the exclusivity period of patents
  • setting up publicly owned pharmaceutical companies

What Jeremy Corbyn actually said in his speech yesterday on these topics was more limited:

…[people] are being denied life-saving medicines by a system that puts profits for shareholders before people’s lives.

Labour will tackle this. We will redesign the system to serve public health – not private wealth – using compulsory licensing to secure generic versions of patented medicines. We’ll tell the drugs companies that if they want public research funding then they’ll have to make their drugs affordable for all. And we will create a new publicly owned generic drugs manufacturer to supply cheaper medicines to our NHS saving our health service money and saving lives.

Of course, it remains to be seen whether these policies will find their way into the Labour Party’s Manifesto at the next General Election, and whether the Labour Party will win a majority of seats in Parliament.

Still, this is interesting for anyone involved in advising on IP and contracts in the pharmaceutical sector.

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Filed under Intellectual Property, Legal policy

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