Prof Ogwang sued over patent rights for Covidex 

A photo montage of Prof Patrick Ogwang, the developer of the product and founder of Jena Herbals Limited (L) and a bottle of Covidex, that he is being sued for. PHOTO | COURTESY

Prof Patrick Ogwang has been sued before the High Court in Kampala, for claiming ownership of Covidex, a herbal drug used as a supportive treatment for Covid-19.

The Covidex producer has been sued by a concerned lawyer, Mr George William Alenyo, and Christian Chamber of Commerce, Agriculture, Industry, Trade and Tourism.

Core to the petitioners’ concern is that Prof Ogwang, a civil servant, developed the herbal medicinal drug using government funds at Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST), alongside his colleagues and yet he is single handedly claiming its patent rights as an individual.

“A declaration that the Covidex drug is a proprietary patent for the government of Uganda, having been developed on government funds, premises, and laboratories and by government public servants paid from the Consolidated Fund,” the petitioners plead to court.

“An order of permanent injunction against the 1st defendant (Prof Ogwang) from claiming patent or Intellectual Property (IP) over the Covidex drug,” they added.

A patent is an exclusive right granted for an invention or innovation.

This means patent rights protection invention cannot be commercially made, used, distributed, imported, or sold by others without the consent of the owner, in this case, Prof Ogwang. 

Prof Ogwang, who trades as Jena Herbal U Ltd, shot to limelight recently when the National Drug Authority (NDA) last month gave the greenlight for his Covidex drug to be used as a supportive treatment for Covid-19.

Since then, there has been a mad rush for the Covidex drug, which is now coupled with a very high demand. 

Last week, this newspaper reported of how the herbal drug had ran out of stock in major pharmacies.

Prof Ogwang has been jointly sued with 12 other government entities. They include NDA, Uganda National Bureau of Standards, the National Environmental Management Authority, the National Forestry Authority, the Uganda Registration Services Bureau, the Pharmaceutical Society of Uganda, and Jena Herbal U Ltd.

Other are Natural Chemotherapeutics Research Institute, Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), Uganda Revenue Authority (URA), and the Attorney General.

In justifying their court move against Prof Ogwang, the petitioners contend that in June this year, Prof Ogwang, a public servant, earning a monthly salary from the Consolidated Fund at MUST, applied in his personal name and obtained clearance from the NDA to sell and personally collect revenue from the Covidex drug, which was developed at government facilities and laboratories.

“The plaintiffs contend that the 1st respondent (Prof Ogwang), to attempt to own government of Uganda patent on Covidex in trust for the people of Uganda, is unlawful and the defendant ought to be condemned to general damages and a permanent injunction from claiming patent for Covidex drug,” the petitioners argue.

Through their lawyers of Katongole & Co. Advocates, the petitioners want court to issue an order against Uganda Revenue Authority, to consolidate all Covidex and other viral treatment drugs returns and sales into the Consolidated Fund.

They also want court to issue an order against the NFA to extract agreements for forest access and extraction of the species Warburgia Ugandenis from the forest with the government and not with Prof Ogwang or his company, Jena Herbal U Ltd. 

Further, the petitioners want court to issue an order against Mbarara University to enforce the Public Service Standing Orders and the Service Order Protocol of the university staff against Prof Ogwang.