Brussels, 7 July 2022
Today, the Commission has launched a public consultation on compulsory licensing of patents, inviting interested parties to express their views on the topic. In particular, the Commission looks for suggestions on how to build a more efficient and coordinated compulsory licensing scheme in the EU, reduce current fragmentation and improve the Europe’s resilience in managing crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
The consultation also gathers views on improving harmonisation, coordination between EU Member States and coordination with the Commission. Furthermore, the consultation gathers views to assess the procedure for granting compulsory licences of patents relating to the manufacture of pharmaceutical products for export purposes to non-EU countries, as regulated by the Regulation 816/2006 on compulsory licensing of patents relating. Compulsory licensing of patents allows a government to authorise the use of a patented invention without the consent of the patent holder.
As highlighted in the call for evidence published in April, compulsory licensing has a role to play in tackling crises as it can help provide access to key products and technologies. It is a last resort mechanism, which should apply in case of failure of voluntary agreements. Currently, apart from Regulation 816/2006, legislation on compulsory licensing of patents is fragmented: EU countries regulate their own compulsory licensing schemes, even though many value chains operate across the EU. This can be a source of legal uncertainty for both right holders and users of intellectual property rights.
The Commission is looking into presenting an initiative for an EU framework on compulsory licensing in the EU in 2023; as indicated in the 2020 Action Plan on Intellectual Property. The initiative would not aim to make the use of compulsory licensing more frequent but to ensure that the system functions more efficiently and that the EU is better equipped to address EU-wide crises. The consultation will be open until 29 September 2022 and is available on the Have Your Say portal.