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Contemporary considerations of contractual justice in pharmaceutical patent negotiations (di Alberto Casazza, Ph.D. in Private Law at University of Florence)

This essay focuses on the systematic and international analysis of pro-competitive legal instruments in the context of patent negotiations, in particular highlighting the dichotomy between voluntary and compulsory transfers of intellectual property rights. The guiding thread of the reasoning is constituted by considerations of contractual justice especially from a legal-economic perspective. The essay also represents an opportunity to theorize an overcoming of the mentioned models, through auction mechanisms based on an optional law strategy, and to apply the results of the analysis to the contemporary pharmaceutical (and vaccine) reality.

Considerazioni attuali di giustizia dei modelli negoziali nella gestione della proprietà intellettuale farmaceutica

Il presente saggio è incentrato sull’analisi sistematica ed internazionale degli strumenti giuridici pro-competitivi nell’ambito delle negoziazioni brevettuali, in particolare ponendo in risalto la dicotomia fra cessioni volontarie ed imposte dei diritti di proprietà intellettuale. Il filo conduttore dei ragionamenti è costituito dalle considerazioni di giustizia contrattuale e dai suoi riflessi, specialmente gius-economici. Il saggio rappresenta, inoltre, l’occasione per teorizzare un superamento dei modelli descritti, attraverso meccanismi d’asta basati su una strategia di optional law, e per applicare i risultati dell’analisi alla realtà farmaceutica (e vaccinale) contemporanea.

1. Introduction and background elements Intellectual property has always been at the center of ideological debates [1]: the clash between free availability of technical information and maintenance of incentives for innovation (access to tech vs. investment in tech) can be interpreted as the result of the balance between efficiency and equity in capitalist market [2], which in general is characterized by fairness when the competitive advantages between firms do not result in the prerogatives of monopoly. In accordance with economic theory, patents represent a cause of monopoly that is exceptionally tolerated in market dynamics [3], as long as within defined temporal and substantial limits [4], such as to limit negative consequences on a large scale in terms of social cost. In the legal-economic doctrinal thought [5], the merits and defects of the use of the patent instrument are known: they range – in addition to what has already been said – from considerations of information asymmetry (adverse selection and moral hazard) to those, equally important, of containment of the free riding [6]. The tolerance of the legal system is understandable in ordinary contexts [7] – in which higher profit margins to the detriment of other market players (remember that the monopolist is by definition price maker, not taker) can be valid as a microeconomic reward and macroeconomic incentive for more innovative companies [8] – but is subject to independent or compulsory counterweights in the event that the needs of the community prevail. The issue is not new but takes on from time to time, depending on specific contexts, peculiar characteristics and therefore requires targeted intervention strategies [9]. In this regard, focusing on contemporaneity, it should be borne in mind that anti-Covid vaccination has unique characteristics in terms of global geographic dimension and economic importance (especially in a time of scarcity of the vaccine offer such as the current one: also for this reason, BioNTech has tightened a unique agreement of its kind with the pharmaceutical company Sanofi for the exploitation of the latter’s production facilities, in order to increase production at least for the European market) [10]. From what can be deduced, therefore, in the analysis of the negotiations of industrial property rights, a problem of justice in the market emerges, which concerns both the possibility of having information relevant to technological progress and the fairness of the price of inventions. Although these profiles may appear disconnected from each other, they are interdependent: as will be apparent from infra thoughts, in fact, if a voluntary or compulsory system for granting patent usage rights is not accompanied by considerations of micro and macroeconomic contractual justice, pro-competitive (and welfaristic) objectives of the interventions on the negotiations of such rights [continua..]

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