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As the pandemic continues, the need to find ways to combat the many issues posed by COVID-19 is becoming ever more pressing. The Biotech world is now at the forefront of this response and it is becoming clear that companies around the world are coming together creating opportunities to collaborate and innovate. Some recent examples include:

  • German company BioNTech partnering with Pfizer in the race to develop a vaccine for COVID-19,
  • Oslo-based public-private funder Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness collaborating with another German biotech, CureVac, to develop its own mRNA vaccine and
  • The UK based Formula 1 teams collaborating on design and manufacture of medical equipment.

The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry recently described the importance of collaborations stating: “the more companies taking different approaches to find a vaccine, the more ‘shots on goal’ and significantly greater chances of success”.

In this fast-paced environment, with the world urgently in need of solutions, it makes sense that companies are coming together at speed, requiring flexibility and adaptation of the negotiation and contracting process.

However, it remains important that companies still take steps necessary to protect themselves against potential legal issues which may arise once the current crisis is over.

One solution is to have a checklist of key points when entering joint-development and collaboration agreements. Key points to consider and agree at the outset include:
– Practical issues, such as, who will lead the project and who will be responsible for making decisions;
– Licensing of existing (background) intellectual property (IP) rights;
– Treatment of prospective (foreground) IP rights arising from the collaboration (who will own, respective rights for ongoing exploitation after the crisis);
– Whether the collaboration results in ongoing development of products
– Payment, including who will fund the research project and how will payments be structured, the use of up-front payments and/or milestone payments;.
– Exclusivity arrangements;
– Confidentiality provisions;
– Term and termination provisions, particularly in relation to the consequences of termination in respect of both background and foreground IP.

Square One Law is here to talk and help you through any questions or concerns you have around collaborations and joint arrangements, as well as any commercial matters in relation to COVID-19.


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