Protection of Intellectual Property Rights and Advancing Public Health in the Time of the Global Pandemic: The Impact of the Increasing Use of Three-Dimensional (3D) Printing of COVID-19 Medical Equipment
The rapid increase of the use of three-dimensional (3D) printing of COVID-19 medical equipment has taken the attention of both intellectual property owners of such medical equipment and the global health community at the time of the COVID-19 pandemic. 3D-printed COVID-19 medical equipment such as personal protective equipment, testing devices, training and visualisation aids, personal accessories, and emergency dwellings have immensely contributed to responding to the supply-demand gap of the COVID-19 medical equipment that occurred due to the disruptions in global medical equipment supply chains. Even though the global health community has embraced the role of 3D printing in making a way out of the pandemic wholeheartedly, intellectual property rights owners of such medical equipment have highlighted 3D printing as a factor that adversely affects their rights. However, intellectual property regulations, including the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS Agreement), do provide exceptions to facilitate health concerns such as fair use and compulsory licensing that can be used to justify the global movement towards 3D printing of COVID-19 medical equipment. Hence, this research emphasises the need for wider application of TRIPS-based health exceptions and effective use of emerging institutional mechanisms to facilitate 3D printing of COVID-19 medical equipment. Using the legal doctrinal research method, this research analyses the integration of 3D printing technology, intellectual property law, and health law in time of the global pandemic. Ultimately, this research offers policy suggestions on balancing the competing interests of IP rights owners and the public in 3D printing of COVID-19 medical equipment.
Keywords: 3D Printing, COVID-19 Medical Equipment, Intellectual Property Rights, Public Health