The war over the ownership of Covidex, a drug said to treat Covid-19 has further escalated after Prof. Patrick Ogwang, the creator of the product threatened to sue Mbarara University for sh100 billion.
The National Drug Authority(NDA) a few weeks ago cleared Covidex for use by the public but also allowed Jena Herbals Uganda Limited to do mass production.
Jena Herbals Uganda Limited is owned by Prof Ogwang.
However, through their lawyers of Omongole and Co Advocates, Prof. Ogwang and his Jena Herbals say they amazed when they learnt that the university without their authorization used three of their products including Jena DS Xtra, Artemune and Covidex to solicit funding from the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation but also evaluated the products without their consent.
“The contract between Mbarara University and the Ministry of Science and Technology is formed on the three products yet our client was neither involved nor informed. We deem this as illegal and fraudulent action by the university and urge them not to go ahead with the said action without authorisation of our client or Prof. Ogwang personally,” the lawyers say in the intention to sue sent to the university but also copied to the Ministry of Science and Technology.
The lawyers say the act by the university to use the product of Prof Ogwang without his knowledge and consent can only be equated to plagiarism and fraudulent dealings that they want stopped as soon as possible.
They asked the university to immediately abandon all its plans and intentions of using the products of Prof Ogwang without his permission.
“Should the university deem it fit to continue with the said illegal acts, they should be ready to be held liable for infringement of the trademarks, patents and all associated intellectual property rights for which Jena Herbals Uganda Limited will not hesitate to demand for shs100 billion for unlawful use of their products,” the lawyers said.
The university was however advised to speak to the lawyers so as to resolve the matter amicably.
War over ownership
Mbarara University recently said they host the Pham Biotechnology and Traditional Medicine Centre(PHARMBIOTRAC) which is one of the Eastern and Southern Africa Higher Education Centres for Excellence in Uganda that is fully sponsored by government to help support the development of herbal products in response to the Covid-19 pandemic in the country.
They said it is through this arrangement that they were able to come up with Covidex.
In a June 14, 2021 letter, Prof Celestino Obua, the Mbarara University vice-chancellor said that Covidex is fully owned by the university and that Jena Herbals Uganda Limited, the company owned by Prof Ogwang should stop manufacturing the product unless the university permits.
“Any third party interested in production, distribution, or sale of Covidex without prejudice is hereby asked to desist from negotiating any deals with any individual, other than the university authority, who is the holder of the Intellectual Property Rights for this product, and for the avoidance of any doubts, in this case Mbarara University of Science and Technology authority,” Obua said.
In a spate letter, Prof Ogwang insisted he owns the herbal product.
“I write to inform the public that Covidex, a formula developed by me, has undergone only laboratory tests by me and my team of scientists at Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST) for active compounds and safety in laboratory animals. Only a few people have used it so far to relieve their symptoms of Covid-19,” he said.
Since coming on to the market, many Ugandans have confessed to having used Covidex and got relief after being diagnosed with Covid-19.
However, since hitting the market, the prices for Covidex have skyrocketed due to its effectiveness.
It remains to be seen how the war over ownership will be solved.