November 2009 Patent Pools


Friday, November 6th, 2009

In 2006, the Commission on Intellectual Property Rights, Innovation, and Public Health, recommended the World Health Organization (WHO) and World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) play a “bigger role in promoting” patent pools for upstream technologies relevant to developing countries. Patent pools have facilitated the creation of aircraft, DVDs, innovations arising from the SARS virus genome, and digital music files. Forming a patent pool for neglected disease or HIV/AIDS medicines could facilitate powerful innovation with immediate benefit to the health of millions.

Next, in 2007, Knowledge Ecology International (KEI) and Medécins sans Frontières (MSF, Doctors Without Borders) proposed that UNITAID host an HIV/AIDS medicines patent pool. The concept attracted great interest from actors in the pharmaceutical, biotech, NGO, and academic sectors. Supported by the WHO’s Global Strategy and Plan of Action, UNITAID has worked toward developing this patent pool, consulting with patent-owners and generic medicines producers, MSF, KEI, and Universities Allied for Essential Medicines (UAEM).

Early in 2009, GlaxoSmithKline CEO Andrew Witty announced his company’s interest in participating in a different patent pool, one for neglected diseases:

“We would put our relevant small molecule compounds or process patents for neglected tropical diseases into the pool, allowing others access to develop and produce new products. The pool would be voluntary so as to encourage others to participate and any benefits from the pool must go in full and solely to LDCs [Least Developed Countries].”

On November 6, 2009, Berkeley’s Center for Law and Technology and Berkeley’s chapter of UAEM will host the next step. Scientists, patient advocates, IP scholars, pharmaceutical and biotech executives, and legal professionals will discuss the design of prior pools, consider the proposed HIV/AIDS pool, and evaluate additional pool designs for neglected diseases.

Panelists from UNITAID, Gilead, GlaxoSmithKline, the FTC, Doctors Without Borders, the Drugs for Neglected Disease Initiative, Emory University, Duke University, UC Berkeley, VIA Licensing, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, Fenwick & West, Fish & Richardson, and others will describe current and planned endeavors to increase innovation and access to therapies.

Designed to facilitate collaboration across sectors, the workshop aims to combine the best science and the best practices of university, industry, and not-for-profit actors to address this preeminent challenge of our generation.

Participants include several representatives from Pfizer, Sanofi Pasteur, Merck, Merck Frosst Canada, the Gates Foundation, Soros Foundation, Medicines for Malaria Venture, Institute for One World Health, Project Inform, and tech transfer managers from Stanford, Berkeley, UCLA, UC Davis, Columbia, Boston University, Johns Hopkins, Wisconsin, UNC, and the University of British Columbia.

The University of California and UAEM-Berkeley are uniquely positioned to host this workshop. The UC’s ten campuses comprise America’s most prolific academic biotech innovator, and its technology transfer offices are among most active in the country. Berkeley Law has been the center of IP and Law and Technology studies for over a decade. Universities Allied for Essential Medicines advocates licensing and research strategies that facilitate access to life-saving medicines in developing countries. Since 2003, UAEM’s UC chapters have engaged these issues across eight UC campuses and at the UC Office of the President.