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08 June 2020
The COVID-19 crisis has had a major impact on the patent ecosystem in Israel, including in relation to:
In March 2020 the Ministry of Justice issued a special permit – the first since the Patent Act 1967 was enacted – according to which the state could withdraw AbbVie's exclusive right to market the medicine Kaletra (a drug for the treatment and prevention of HIV) in Israel, where it is patent protected.
This exclusivity was withdrawn following a World Health Organisation (WHO) notice on conducting clinical trials for treating patients with COVID-19 using certain known medicines, including Kaletra. The reason for the withdrawal was AbbVie's inability to meet high demand. However, in late March 2020 a shipment of 900,000 tablets weighing 2.3 tonnes landed in Israel.
In response, AbbVie announced that it would:
The fact that such an event happened during the COVID-19 crisis is not a coincidence and it seems to indicate a significant shift in the patent ecosystem.
Another major trend during the COVID-19 crisis has been the increased cooperation between the government and companies and collaborations between companies that create patent pools to mitigate risk and speed up the development of solutions to problems in the public interest. This trend reflects a change in the mindset of patent owners who understand that seeing beyond the narrow competitive interest may bring about prosperity to all, a type of win-win situation.
Thus, the increased need to find fast and low-cost solutions to a problem causes companies to develop new and innovative models (eg, open innovation) and share their research results. In such models, the primary role of a patent to provide a sword in the field of economic competition is replaced with collaboration.
While the COVID-19 crisis has undoubtedly increased cooperation and collaboration in the patent ecosystem, this tendency is also reflected in other matters of public interest (eg, telecoms and the transition to 5G) that require holistic solutions and multidisciplinary collaboration between companies of different specialities.
The COVID-19 crisis has also affected the distribution of filings from foreign jurisdictions. Like many jurisdictions, Israel has witnessed an increase in filings from China. This trend could strengthen in the coming months, as practitioners speculate over how the United States will emerge from the crisis compared with China, a result which could affect patent filing rates.
The COVID-19 crisis has had a major impact on ILPO admin. At the beginning of the crisis, the ILPO granted across-the-board extensions with regard to filings, submissions, office actions and other admin relating to patent prosecution. As a result, there will likely be a challenging backlog to process after the crisis; however, if patents are issued too slowly, it will undermine the purpose of the system – namely, to be instrumental in the promotion of progress.
Further, during the COVID-19 crisis, many individuals that could not perform their regular work duties may have used this time to complete research projects, which could yield increased patent applications (especially considering that historically speaking, new technologies have been used to resolve economic crises).
As the crisis has removed most (if not all) of the barriers that until now have prevented people from working remotely, it is a possible solution that could help overloaded patent examiners in the months ahead. In addition to increasing the number of patent examiners, remote working could also help employers resolve their budget issues by reducing the amount of office space required. This way to overcome the inevitable backlog and allow the ILPO to examine patents efficiently after the crisis should be used where applicable.
For further information on this topic please contact David Gliat at Reinhold Cohn Group by telephone (+972 3 710 9333) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org). The Reinhold Cohn Group website can be accessed at www.rcip.co.il/en.
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