News » Neb. Senator’s COVID-19 Bill Would Give Pharmaceuticals 10 Additional Years of Patent Protection

Neb. Senator’s COVID-19 Bill Would Give Pharmaceuticals 10 Additional Years of Patent Protection

View of modern medical X-ray operating room (cath lab).

April 23, 2020

Governments including Canada, German and Israel are taking steps to make sure that they can override patents and issue compulsory licenses for COVID-19 related treatments, vaccines, and tools, but in the U.S. lobbyists are pushing for expanded patent protection. Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska is sponsoring a bill that prevents issued patents that relate to COVID-19 from taking effect until after the national emergency declaration ends, but additionally grants 10 extra years of patent rights beyond the existing 20 years to any “new or existing pharmaceutical, medical device, or other process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter.” The bill also applies to improvements on existing technology. The Electronic Frontier Foundation argues that “the fruits of any research into COVID-19 in the U.S. will rest on an enormous bedrock of public funding,” including billions of dollars to research therapies and vaccines in the stimulus bill, in addition to the earlier $8.3 billion coronavirus bill, which authorized more than $3 billion for vaccine research. According to the EFF, “the public has the right to benefit from that use of public research money, not see it locked up by patents.”

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