German Chancellor Angela Merkel described the coronavirus as the greatest challenge facing her country since the end of World War II. Germany’s parliament took that message to heart as part of a package to fight the virus, extending powers to suspend patent rights, a tool last used in the country in 1949.
Governments around the world are reviving rarely used legislation or pledging new measures to ensure that they have the drugs they need to battle the pandemic. Israel last month invoked an emergency patent-suspension clause in its 1967 code for the first time, allowing it to import a generic version of AbbVie Inc.’s Kaletra, which has shown signs of combating coronavirus.
In the U.K., so-called Crown Use rules allow the government to suspend protections it would normally grant a patent holder. Those have been used just a handful of times since 1945, but that could change.
“If there is a drug supply shortage, governments aren’t going to be squeamish about ordering companies to do what they think is necessary,” said James Tumbridge, a lawyer with Venner Shipley in London. In wartime Britain, companies were provided a measure of fair compensation for their rights.
“I can see there being …