Responding to the publication of the Labour Party's manifesto and the 'Medicines for the Many' report – the Party's proposed policies on access to medicines in the UK – Mark Shillito, Partner and Global Head of Intellectual Property at Herbert Smith Freehills, comments:
"The Medicines for the Many report envisages a potential future Labour government using compulsory licenses and other provisions of UK patent law to obtain generic versions of patented medicines at a lower price than they would otherwise be available.
"Such power to require access to patented medicines has been provided for in UK law for more than forty years, but the relevant provisions have yet to be tested in practice. Any use of the powers present in UK patent law is likely to give rise to litigation over the nature and extent of these powers and the financial compensation available to patent owners, particularly given the lack of guidance available from the Courts to date.
"It is entirely possible that challenges will also be made against attempts to expropriate physical or intellectual property, especially if these impact the numerous bilateral investment treaties to which the UK has previously committed.
"Labour's report also states that an incoming Labour government would review 'non-patent monopoly protections on medicines'. The removal or amendment of such protections would represent a significant change to the pharmaceutical innovation ecosystem in the UK. However, it may be difficult for a Labour government to achieve a number of the aims set out in the Medicines for the Many Report without international cooperation."