Symposium on Public Policy Patent Landscaping in the Life Sciences
WIPO in collaboration with FAO
7 April – 8 April 2008 (Geneva, Switzerland)
Adapted from the Intellectual Property Watch article and the WIPO Press Room.
The Life Sciences Symposium on public policy patent landscaping in the life sciences took place within the context of a cooperation program between the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) on patent landscaping for policymakers. The Symposium comprised three components:
- A preliminary technical consultation on patent landscapes commissioned by the FAO and WIPO, for close expert review;
- A full peer review of the WIPO FAO patent landscapes and review of future directions in using patent information mechanisms for policymakers in relation to plant genetic resources;
- A comparative review of public policy patent landscaping in other life sciences fields, with a special focus on public health landscaping.
The Symposium draws together two important trends:
- Patent information as a tool of public policy: Policymakers who deal with innovation and access in the life sciences – concerned with agriculture and food security; public health and pharmaceuticals; and environmental issues – have increasingly focused on the patent system. They look for clearer, more accessible and geographically more representative information to support key policy processes. They seek a stronger empirical basis for their assessments on the role and impact of the patent system in relation to key areas of life sciences technology.
- Improved analytical tools and access to patent information: Rapid growth in the use of the patent system, and in the diversity of users, has led to an explosion of raw data on patenting activities in the life sciences. This data is progressively being turned into useful information. Availability and quality of patent information have increased. Analytical tools and methodologies are better understood and are more widely available. And greater practical experience has been harvested from a range of recent patent landscaping initiatives. This trend opens up enormous practical potential for improved patent information resources for public policymakers addressing the life sciences.
The experts at the meeting concluded that access to quality data in intellectual property policy in the life sciences is as necessary as it is hard to obtain. Patents on life sciences figure into the “key debates of the day,” including agriculture and food security, public health and pharmaceuticals, and environmental protection, said Antony Taubman, head of WIPO’s global IP issues division. Also commenting at the event was Paul Oldham of the Economic and Social Research Council’s Centre for Economic and Social Aspects of Genomics, who spoke on biodiversity, biopiracy, and traditional knowledge in the patent system.
Recurrent themes of the event included: the difficulty of finding complete, up-to-date patent data in easily searchable formats and the complexity of an increasingly multilingual and multilateral patent system.