Biotech, Gates Foundation, and Global Health

Great interview by Gene Quinn with Erik Iverson, Associate General Counsel with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  A summary article is on BIOtech Now and the full interview can be found on IPWatchdog.com.

 Highlights:

Iverson told me in no uncertain terms, “[A] fundamental premise at the foundation is that we absolutely respect intellectual property rights.  We recognize their importance and we certainly recognize the importance of companies and their involvement in developing products and having them commercialized both in developed and developing countries.”  But how can the Gates Foundation balance the intellectual property rights of those who create live saving technologies and treatments while at the same time ensuring the humanitarian mission? 

According to Iverson, this requires a different approach to each situation taking into consideration the unique factual circumstances involved, such as the disease at issue, the marketability that may exist in developed countries and the need to incentivize the desired outcome.  Iverson explained, “[T]he life science community is all about helping people and saving lives… [we are] trying to figure out how to balance them to push the development of products that well, very few people historically have put much effort into…”

BIO Comments to USTR on 2011 Special 301 Review

BIO Comments to USTR on 2011 Special 301 Review (February 15, 2011)

In comments to the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), BIO stresses the critical importance of protecting intellectual property abroad and made recommendations about which countries to include on the Priority Watch and Watch List, which to elevate as a Priority Foreigh Country, and which countries to monitor.

Read the Comments (link to http://bio.org/pdfs/BIO_2011_Special_301_Submission.pdf)

Read the Press Release (link to http://bio.org/news/pressreleases/newsitem.asp?id=2011_0221_01)

BIO’s Comments on proposed PTO Humanitarian Technologies and Licensing Through the Intellectual Property System

Here are the highlights from BIO’s recent submission on the proposed PTO “Request for Comments on Incentivizing Humanitarian Technologies and Licensing Through the Intellectual Property System.”  

Background:

1.  “BIO’s members also understand that problems with access to medicines and other biotechnology products in the developing world have very little to do with the patent system, and are generally caused by other factors outside the control of individual stakeholders, such as lack of adequate local manufacturing, delivery, public health and sanitation infrastructure, trade and tariff barriers, regulatory obstacles, lack of market incentives, inequitable local distribution and corruption, diversion of products to more lucrative markets, and a chronic underinvestment in public health, education and environmental conservation. In fact, access issues persist even in countries where there are no patents covering humanitarian products and technologies.”

 2.  “While the patent system cannot be a primary policy lever to address these complex questions above, BIO nonetheless believes that innovative businesses from all sectors of the U.S. economy, including the biotechnology industry, can help improve the lives of underprivileged populations in the developing world. Indeed, BIO member companies have long participated in specific access and licensing initiatives that have informed the policy choices of members of the industry.”  (See http://www.globalhealthprogress.org/, http://www.ifpma.org/healthpartnerships, http://www.bvgh.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=867bPGw-kYo%3d&tabid=105, http://www.aatf-africa.org/, and http://www.cimmyt.org/.)

 “Most recently, in May of this year, BIO announced a policy statement containing its Options for Increasing Access to Medicines in the Developing World that it believes should be considered during the development and commercialization of biotechnology products.  Accordingly, BIO commends the USPTO for likewise exploring creative and market-oriented ways to incentivize the development and distribution of humanitarian technologies, a goal that BIO and its members have long shared and are working hard to achieve. In addition, BIO would support efforts to bring together all potential stakeholders to explore various approaches and initiatives.”

Key Points:

1.  Any program should be technology-neutral – “In BIO’s view, such a program should be applicable to innovators from all sectors who engage in the creation and dissemination of technology that has the potential to address the needs of impoverished populations in the developing world.”

 2.  Any proposal should ensure USPTO’s core mission is maintained and adequately resourced.

 3.  Value of any proposed vouchers should be maximized, but will remain limited – “BIO believes that the commercial value of the proposed voucher could be substantial under some situations, but difficult to express in monetary terms at this time.” 

4.  Clarity of standing for voucher use needed – “BIO members are seriously concerned that vouchers could potentially be used by third party requesters, or even unrelated third parties, to accelerate the ex parte reexamination of other party’s patents without the patentee’s consent.”

5.  Policy options for voucher award process require further discussion – “BIO members also raised the question whether the proposed vouchers should be awarded as an entitlement for meeting certain objective criteria, or as a more subjective prize for extraordinary humanitarian licensing efforts.”

Conclusion:

“BIO understands this Federal Register notice to be a first conceptual step in what will be a deliberative process with additional opportunities for public review and comment as more specific details and approaches are proposed. With this understanding, we look forward to engaging further on this effort in partnership with the USPTO and other industries and stakeholders.”

BIO’s Full Comment