Assignment of intellectual property rights in Ukrainian medicine becomes ‘a matter of life and death’

Patent attorney Olga Gorgola can’t really explain why she was forced to visit her parents in Kyiv in the week before Russia’s February 24 attack on Ukraine. All the senior lecturer at Brunel University Law School could remember was that she was terrified that an invasion was imminent.

“I had this horrible feeling that something [was] You remember. “I was very worried that if the invasion happened, no one would be able to help them.”

Gorgola helped her parents escape to a relatively safer place. She then returned to England but has since returned to England, focused on using her experience as an intellectual property attorney to help her country.

She recently proposed a bill that would help Ukrainians access vital medical supplies. With the outbreak of war, Gorgola says, pharmacies were completely empty.

“You can’t find antibiotics, painkillers, or even insulin,” she says. “This is a matter of life and death for people with chronic or life-threatening serious illnesses.”

In addition to the immediate devastating impact of the civilian deaths from the Russian attacks, Gorgola says, the war also caused a “massive” health crisis due to a lack of medical supplies.

“Humanitarian aid helps, but given the sheer scale of the tragedy affecting the majority of Ukrainians, it is not enough,” she adds.

Gurgula, whose research focuses on how patent law affects the availability of pharmaceutical products, saw a possible solution in Ukraine’s generic pharmaceutical industry.

“[Companies] They will be able and willing to produce essential medicines, but some of these medicines are protected by intellectual property rights,” Gorgola explains, adding that such protection prevents local companies from manufacturing generic medicines.

Olga Gorgola returned to Ukraine before the Russian invasion in February

She pointed out that the state is unable to import some medicines because they are protected by patents that prevent the import of generic medicines.

The bill, which was drafted by Gorgola and colleagues at the Ukrainian Institute of Intellectual Property and a large patient organization, is in effect a waiver of intellectual property rights.

If passed by the Verkhovna Rada, it would allow the country’s generic drug manufacturers to legally produce essential drugs, and would allow the country to bypass a World Trade Organization ban on the production and import of generic drugs.

Gorgola says that her suggestion Legal under the “Security Exceptions” clause in Article 73 of the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (Flights). This provision allows member states to waive intellectual property rights in certain circumstances, such as war.

Allows you to pause your obligations while protecting the essential security interests of the state, such as savings [the] People’s life and health in Ukraine.

This bill is awaiting discussion in Parliament.


Gorgola has a history To work on improving the intellectual property infrastructure in her country. In 2018, she was a research coordinator on a project run by Queen Mary University of Law and funded by the then UK Department for International Development, which aims to establish a specialized intellectual property court in her native Ukraine. This work would have come to fruition had it not been for the outbreak of war. The new court was expected to be established later this year.

She is not alone in struggling to help her country. As part of efforts to help Ukrainian colleagues, the international intellectual property academic community has joined forces. The University of Strasbourg in France, the Max Planck Institute in Germany, and other institutions across Europe have offered visiting fellowships to Ukrainian academics in an effort to bring them to safety and help them continue their work.

In the early days of the war, German-Swedish national Timo Minsen, professor of biomedical law at the University of Copenhagen, headed to the Ukraine-Polish border to bring one of his former doctoral candidates and his family. He was unable to communicate with his former pupil at the time, but he brought another Ukrainian family and their dog to safety in northern Denmark; His former student and family eventually arrived in Copenhagen.

Minsen also allocated the Visiting Scholars Fund in his academic department to Ukrainian scientists.

“All of this help, and what other institutions are doing, including helping intellectual property academics to continue their work, is very important and we appreciate it very much,” Gorgola says.

business as usual? Continuing operations as general counsel

Andrey Homenchuk remained in Ukraine throughout the war, in part due to pleas by the Ukrainian government to help protect the country’s economy by continuing operations.

Humenchuk, general counsel for Ukrainian e-commerce retailer EVO, has dealt with legal issues unimaginable to a GC in peacetime, such as helping employees comply with martial law and conscription requirements.

The company is headquartered in Kyiv, but many of its employees have fled to the relatively safer Ukrainian city of Lviv, or to Poland, Italy and other countries.

In the early days of the war, Homenchuk lost one of his colleagues, who was shot in the outskirts of Kyiv while trying to help keep the elderly population out of harm’s way.

“The first two or three weeks were the hardest, including psychologically,” recalls Homenschuk. “You can’t get around the fact that people are being killed, and at the same time you should have at least tried to help your business and respond to the government’s urge to open up Ukrainian companies an economic front . . . to help with economic recovery and provide people with jobs and ways to generate income.”

Not only was EVO able to continue, it served the war effort by lending its logistical operations to help provide equipment for civilians and the Ukrainian military, including helmets, flak jackets, and medical supplies.

As the GC on an e-commerce platform that helps Ukrainian companies market and sell their products, much of the Humenchuk team’s work involved protecting the intellectual property of sellers on their site, even before the war. But this need increased and became more complex when Russia invaded his country.

“We have seen more incidents of intellectual property infringement as hostilities have erupted,” he says, adding that opportunistic counterfeiters appear to be taking advantage of market turmoil, “and they are becoming more and more difficult to deal with in other jurisdictions.”

The lines of communication have become unreliable. Even communicating with the opposing advisor and meeting deadlines became difficult as his crew grappled with the realities of living in a country under siege. However, he was heartened by the treatment he received by lawyers in other jurisdictions.

“What surprised me was that we received no pity,” he says. Relationships were very respectful and tolerant. It was all very professional, both from a legal and from a humanitarian perspective.”

Bruce Love is a freelance journalist and reporter for the National Law Journal in Washington