Patenting, described simply as the granting of a property right by an authority to an inventor has allowed for the thriving of invention and innovations over decades.
Today, patents have been closely linked to innovation with creatives and firm only moving forward with product development after the surety of property rights.
It is also important to trade mark your designs and names, which is part of protecting your brand and supports the brand architecture programs that result in long term customer loyalty and revenues.
Over the years Governments have been responsible for issuing patents with agencies such as the US Patent and Trade Mark Office (USPTO) and the Kenya Industrial Property Institute being tasked with the role.
On average, the USPTO receives in excess of half a million applications every year and grants just over 300,000 of the applications.
In June 2018, USPTO issued its 10 millionth patent. Technology firms including Microsoft, Google, Apple and IBM lead in issued patents even as other industries also primarily drive new discoveries through property right protections.
Of concern presently however is the patenting of Covid-19 vaccines by big pharmaceuticals amidst a raging global health emergency.
While vaccines have been around for a few months with the purpose of alleviating the strife on the human population, supply constrains mean that most parts of the world are yet to feel the impact of the antidote.
Unfortunately, it is the poorer countries lagging behind in accessing and distributing the key supplies to population.
Take the case of Kenya, only slightly over or about, 1.2 million vaccines were accessed in the first batch through the COVAX program.
This means only around one million persons have received their first jabs in contrast to much developed countries like the United States which surpassed 300 million doses by the end of April.
The bulk of developing countries has relied on vaccines manufactured at India’s Serum Institute.
However, with India facing a brutal third wave of infection whose severity has been worsened by the first recorded double mutant variant, the country is no longer able to meet new export orders.
Presently, India is in need of more assistance than it can offer even to lesser peers. Kenya’s second batch of vaccines from the COVAX program for instance now lies in doubt with Citizens who have since received their first shot doubting the availability of the second-reinforcing jab.
Imperatively, Kenya and its peers in the developing world must seek for alternatives. It is for this reasons that India and South Africa pushed for the temporal lift of vaccine patents to allow a more intense spread of vaccines around the world through devolved manufacturing.
The push presented to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) has subsequently received support from various quarters including the Catholic church, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and in the most recent- the United States.
For instance, Pope Francis argues the waiver will allow universal access to vaccines with the measure coming to the rescue of the most vulnerable in the world.
Meanwhile, the United States through its top trade advisor Katherine Tai says the waiver of patents is necessary under the extra ordinary circumstances stating the US would actively participate in text-based negotiations at the WTO.
Locally, Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala has been the most vocal of leaders in supporting the temporal waiver of patents.
In his argument, the world is an interconnected global village and that no one in the world will be safe until everyone is vaccinated.
Tourism investors and leaders in the travel and hospitality sector have received the most significant and lasting damage from the pandemic
The views expressed in this article don’t necessarily represent KBC’s opinion.