In Session 33 of the Standing Committee on the Law of Patents (“The Committee”) which took place from 6 to 9 December 2021, The Committee continued discussions on a review of existing research on patents and access to medical products and health technologies[1].

The Delegation of France, speaking on behalf of Group B, commended the practical capacity building workshop organised by World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), World Health Organization (WHO) and World Trade Organization (WTO) that took place on 27 September 2021 on innovation and access to Covid-19 technologies which addressed technology transfer and licensing.

The Delegation additionally recommended an extension of the period under review which initially covered 2005 to 2018 in SCP/31/5, to also cover the beginning of the pandemic spanning 2019 to 2021 regarding the five topics of the proposed studies[2],[3]. This recommendation was reiterated and supported by South Africa, as well as Georgia on behalf of the Central European and Baltic States (CEBS) Group.

Patent status information on medicines and vaccines

The Committee continued to receive updates on the initiatives on publicly accessible databases of patent status information concerning medicines and vaccines as was previously requested1,[4].

The Delegation of China shared its experience in fighting Covid-19 with the patent system including the use of a public Covid-19 information sharing database holding over 10,000 pieces of information on Covid-19 medicines, diagnosis, equipment etc. organised by the Patent Office of China.

The Committee was then informed about the recent developments regarding the Pat-INFORMED, MedsPaL and VaxPaL, and the Eurasian Patent Organization (EAPO) Pharmaceutical Register.

Pat-INFORMED

Patent Information Initiative for Medicines (Pat-INFORMED) is a search engine to help pharmaceutical procurement agencies determine the status of a medicine by facilitating access to and availability of pharmaceutical patent information[5] . It offers a facility to request additional information directly from patent holders.

Pat-INFORMED is a partnership among WIPO, International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations (IFPMA) and 20 global pharma companies. The search engine covers HIV/AIDS, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, hepatitis C, oncology, respiratory conditions, and all products on the WHO Essential Medicines List (EML) that are not within these therapy areas. Companies are now populating the database to cover all small-molecule therapeutic areas.

Medicines Patent Pool

The Medicines Patent Pool (MPP) is a public health organisation established in 2010 to accelerate access to new HIV medicines in low-and middle-income countries (LMICs) and to facilitate the development of new formulations needed in developing countries[6].

The MPP operates through voluntary licences to facilitate early entry of generic manufacturers in LMICs and has expanded to work on hepatitis C, Tuberculosis (2016), other patented essential medicines (2018) and Covid-19 (2020).

MedsPal

MPP’s MedsPal database is a comprehensive open-access source of information on the patent and licensing status of patented essential medicines.

Since October 2019, 5,700 national patent applications have been added to the 13,700 existing entries in the database. Additionally, 40 more priority medicines and information on 20 licences and other access agreements have been added to MedsPal, amounting to 180 priority medicines and 80 licences in the database.

Other updates to the database include restructuring of the patent families, a new search field to filter by ‘Disease Areas’, and a new ‘jurisdiction’ for PCT applications.

Notably, 14 patent offices have signed Memoranda of Understanding with the MPP committing to share data. The MPP also launched a new Covid-19 vaccine information source on 6 June 2021 and later a fully searchable database on 3 December 2021 called VaxPal to provide greater transparency on patents relating to key Covid-19 vaccines6.

The Eurasian Patent Organization

The Eurasian Patent Organization (EAPO) is an international intergovernmental organisation established in 1995 in accordance with the Eurasian Patent Convention (EPC) to grant Eurasian patents[7].

The EAPO pharmaceutical register, launched on 1 March 2021, is a publicly accessible, searchable database on Eurasian patents related to active pharmaceutical ingredients having an International Nonproprietary Name (INN). The register is linked to the Eurasian Patent Register and the Eurasian publication server. As of 1 December 2021, the register holds information on 286 Eurasian patents, 192 INNs and 318 registered drugs. A patent is added on request of the patent holder or market authorisation holder and EAPO examiners assess its eligibility. All entries may be revised under third party observations.

Suggestions from delegations

The Committee continued further discussion on the aspects reflected in the proposals by the Member States1,[8],[9],[10]. Some delegations suggested other activities to be carried out by the Committee regarding patents and health.

The Delegation of South Africa, speaking on behalf of the Africa Group, noted that the barriers created by the patent system are the primary reason why the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) waiver proposal continues to be discussed at the WTO.

The Delegation noted with interest the launch by the WHO in 2020 of the Covid-19 technology access pool (C-TAP) to facilitate timely, equitable and affordable access of Covid-19 health products by boosting their supply. The Delegation requested the Secretariat to invite representatives of the WHO to the next session of the SCP to share experiences on C-TAP, including its successes and challenges. This request was supported by the Delegation of Nigeria who noted the need for WIPO to assist Member States to access and implement sustainable and integrated solutions to public health challenges.

The thirty-fourth SCP session is scheduled for 26-30 September 2022 in Geneva, Switzerland.[11] The draft agenda and other documents related to this session are yet to be released.

 

FICPI’s view and involvement 

FICPI’s committees and events provide unique opportunities for independent IP attorneys to network and discuss topics that affect them and the organisations they serve. As a worldwide organisation exclusively for independent IP attorneys and with regular meetings with IP Offices around the world, FICPI brings special insights.  

Next steps 

 

 

 

[1] Summary by the Chair (SCP/33/5), Standing Committee on the Law of Patents (2021), https://www.wipo.int/edocs/mdocs/scp/en/scp_33/scp_33_5.pdf

 

[2] Revised Proposal by the Delegations of Argentina, Brazil, Canada and Switzerland (SCP/28/9 REV.). Standing Committee on the Law of Patents (2018), https://www.wipo.int/edocs/mdocs/scp/en/scp_28/scp_28_9_rev.pdf

 

[3] Review of Existing Research on Patents and Access to Medical Products and Health Technologies (SCP/31/5). Standing Committee on the Law of Patents (2019), https://www.wipo.int/edocs/mdocs/scp/en/scp_31/scp_31_5.pdf

 

[4] Revised Proposal by the Delegations of Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Switzerland (SCP/28/10 REV.). Standing Committee on the Law of Patents (2018), https://www.wipo.int/edocs/mdocs/scp/en/scp_28/scp_28_10_rev.pdf

 

[5] Patent Information Initiative for Medicines Pat-INFORMED PowerPoint presentation (SCP/33E). Standing Committee on the Law of Patents (2021), https://www.wipo.int/edocs/mdocs/scp/en/scp_33/scp_33_e_health.pdf

 

[6] MedsPal and VaxPal – Medicines Patent Pool (MPP) PowerPoint presentation (SCP/33/C). Standing Committee on the Law of Patents (2021), https://www.wipo.int/edocs/mdocs/scp/en/scp_33/scp_33_c_health.pdf

 

[7] European Patent Office Pharmaceutical Register PowerPoint presentation (SCP33/D). Standing Committee on the Law of Patents (2021), https://www.wipo.int/edocs/mdocs/scp/en/scp_33/scp_33_d_health.pdf

 

[8] Proposal submitted by the Delegation of South Africa on behalf of the African Group and the Development Agenda Group (SCP16/7). Standing Committee on the Law of Patents (2011), https://www.wipo.int/edocs/mdocs/scp/en/scp_16/scp_16_7.pdf

 

[9] Patents and Health: Proposal by the Delegation of the United States of America (SCP/17/11). Standing Committee on the Law of Patents (2011), https://www.wipo.int/edocs/mdocs/scp/en/scp_17/scp_17_11.pdf

 

[10] Proposal by the African Group for a WIPO Work Program on Patents and Health (SCP/24/4). Standing Committee on the Law of Patents (2016), https://www.wipo.int/edocs/mdocs/scp/en/scp_24/scp_24_4.pdf

 

[11] Thirty-fourth Session of the Standing Committee on the Law of Patents (SCP/34). https://www.wipo.int/edocs/mdocs/scp/en/scp_33/scp_33_d_health.pdf

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