Patents and Biotech – a Broken System? Fixed by Information

A couple of months ago a Montreal-based non-profit IP consulting firm called The Innovation Partnership issued an interesting report calling for changes in the way biotechnology IP is created, disseminated and protected. In recent years there has been much debate in academic and research circles about whether the prolific patenting and licensing of biotechnology IP inhibits pure research and information sharing. The full report is available at:

Toward a New Era of Intellectual Property: From Confrontation to Negotiation – A Report from the International Expert Group on Biotechnology, Innovation and Intellectual Property

What struck me most about the report was the number of recommendations linked to the dissemination of patent information to the public. Specifically, the authors of the report argue that… “As custodians of the patent system, patent offices around the world should…

… build publicly-available databases of patent information that can be used to better track the impact and effectiveness of not only the IP system, but of particular methods of dissemination.

… should collect patent-related information in a standard form and make this available to the public for free. Data should include information that will assist in assessing patent landscapes in targeted areas of technology, such as essential medicines. Patent databases should be linked so that a user can identify not only the patents in one country but related patents in other countries. These databases should also be easily searchable.

…should collect data on the type and major terms of licence agreements. A pilot project at the Japanese Patent Office on creating such a database should be expanded and spread to patent offices around the world.

…To better enable patent offices to respond to the needs of the public sector, these offices
should establish policy branches that would investigate ways to make data more available, assist in patent landscaping and disseminate information about the patent system.

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