As we continue to tackle the global coronavirus pandemic, it is more important than ever to ensure innovation is protected and incentivized to facilitate development of cutting-edge, life-saving technology and treatments. Such was the backdrop of the Property Rights Alliance (PRA) webinar hosted on June 12, 2020.
The webinar provided thoughtful insights on innovation in the time of coronavirus from expert speakers Robert Popovian, Vice President of U.S. Government Relations at Pfizer, Zoraida Rodriguez Montenegro, Public Policy Manager of Federal Affairs at Uber, and Professor Kumi Yokoe, PhD., Department of Global Innovation Studies at the University of Tokyo. Covering topics ranging from safe meal delivery, to vaccine development and even virtual graduation ceremonies via Animal Crossing™, the panelists emphasized the role of intellectual property (IP) as a vital catalyst for innovative solutions.
Popovian eloquently summed up the importance of IP in the context of public-private partnership with Pfizer’s “5-point plan” to battle COVID-19, which involves collaboration between scientists and other companies, sharing of clinical practices with smaller biopharmaceutical innovators, bolstering manufacturing of vaccines with successful companies, and improving rapid response for any future pandemics. All of the above measures would not be possible without patent protection. He also underscored that “the more competition and collaboration, the better” so companies can learn from one another to advance critical solutions. And, strong IP and patent systems enable companies to work together without fear of their innovations being stolen.
“As we continue to tackle the global coronavirus pandemic, it is more important than ever to ensure innovation is protected and incentivized to facilitate development of cutting-edge technologies.”
Uber, a patent-protected platform, has also leveraged its IP, in this case alleviating some of the social stressors of COVID-19. Initiatives such as the novel Uber Freight have moved almost 14,000 relief loads to those in need at zero profit. Montenegro noted that Uber has also implemented trailblazing efforts such as mask checks via selfies and helpful safety checklists for its drivers and riders.
Offering an international perspective, Yokoe spoke to the benefits of IP protection in Japan. Nintendo, a videogame giant, saw the sales of its patented Animal Crossing™ boom in response to the need for virtual socialization. And recognizing the severe heat of Japan’s summer months, companies such as Marui Orimono have been able to develop innovative, highly ventilated masks that can be refrigerated and serve as a cooling devices thanks to IP incentivization and protection.
Closing the webinar, Lorenzo Montanari, Executive Director of PRA stressed the importance of IP as the backbone of our economy. Montanari explained that, especially now, we need patent protection to drive innovation and solve global challenges that have arisen as a result of COVID-19. These examples are only the beginning of an emerging era of technological and medical exploration and innovation. The continued momentum of this era, however, relies on the protection of IP.