Current Issue: Volume 23
COVID-19 has created pressing and widespread needs for vaccines, medical treatments, PPE, and other medical technologies, needs that may conflict—indeed, have already begun to conflict—with the exclusive rights conferred by United States patents. The U.S. government has a legal mechanism to overcome this conflict: government use of patented technologies at the cost of government-paid compensation under 28 U.S.C. § 1498. But while many have recognized the theoretical possibility of government patent use under that statute, there is today a conventional wisdom that § 1498 is too exceptional, unpredictable, and dramatic for practical use, to the point that it ought to be invoked sparingly or not at all, even in extraordinary circumstances such as a pandemic. Yet that conventional wisdom is a recent one, and it conflicts with both history and theory. This Article considers the role of § 1498 in the context of national crises and emergencies like COVID-19, a context so far not addressed substantially in the literature on the statute.