Since the dawn of recorded history (or at least since the advent of cable news), there has seemingly always been a looming existential threat poised to bring an end to humanity. Plagues, wars to end all wars, ska music...all have come and gone and seen civilization still standing. Nonetheless, there is a cottage industry built around the end of the world, with movies, books, and TV series all speculating as to the manner of our collective demise.
The most recent furor is over the ebola virus, with worldwide attention pinballing across the globe as each new case arises. And while an experimental vaccine exists, it may be left in the laboratory due to an intellectual property (IP) dispute.
According to reports in Science magazine, researchers are unable to test an experimental ebola vaccine on 20 (apparently very brave) German volunteers due to ongoing negotiations with an American company. NewLink Genetics, based out of Ames, Iowa, holds a license for commercialization of the vaccine from the Canadian government, and Science suggests that the delay is due to NewLink dragging its feet over concerns about losing control over the development of the vaccine. Brian Wiley, NewLink's Vice President of Business Development, has refuted such claims, stating, "Our program has moved forward at a unprecedented pace," and that any delays are related to "the administrative process."
Most frustrating to onlookers is the fact that there are 800 to 1,000 doses of the vaccine in the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winniped earmarked for shipment to West Africa. The Canadian government has come under question from CBC News as to what they are recieving in exchange for licensing rights. Officials from Canada's Public Health Agency have stated that the terms of these contracts are confidential, but that the government still holds the patent and retains rights related to research and emergency treatment. The government has laid the blame for the delay at the feet of the World Health Organization. In response to the percieved inaction, Dr. Gregory Taylor, Canada's chief public health officer, said, "In terms of the vaccine, it's not a stall as much as this has never happened before. The WHO has never done this before." While things seem a mess at the moment, hope remains that all parties will be able to work together to move forward in developing a vaccine.
Odds are, your idea or invention isn't life or death (provided that you, gentle reader, aren't a Bond villain sprung to life.) But that doesn't make your intellecual property any less valuable to you. Make sure you take the necessary steps to have it protected every step of the way.
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