A new database was launched this week to facilitate navigation through the patent field and increase transparency surrounding the patent status of medicines and licenses.

The Medicines Patent Pool (MPP), Chile’s National Institute of Industrial Property (INAPI), and global health initiative UNITAID held a side event at the WIPO General Assemblies on 5 October. The event was held to present “MedsPaL”, the MPP’s Medicines Patent and Licenses Database, discuss the difficulties in navigating the patent field, and report on the activities by regional and national patent offices, which could inform and build on the new database.

Presentation of Meds Pal’s Key Feature

Burrone presented the key features of the new database. These include an increase in disease scope, a single entry point for key IP data such as on patent status, licences and data exclusivity for example, links to specific formulations, and other improved functionalities.

Boulet explained that patent status information is obtained by automated data feeds from the EPO’s Espacenet and is supplemented with data collected from WIPO PatentScope, individual patent offices and via local experts as well as patent holder disclosures. With regard to licences featured on MedsPaL, those negotiated by MPP, bilateral licences between originators and generics, commitments not to enforce patents on a given product, and compulsory licences are included on the database, Boulet said.

Additional features to come will include the ability to download search results, visualization of search results via maps and brief search reports on pre-defined queries. Both Burrone and Boulet invited further collaboration with the audience (such as national IP offices) and encouraged national patent offices and other organizations to communicate ideas to MPP to further improve MedsPaL.

Response and Experiences in Navigating the Patent Field

Practitioners in the field welcomed the new database and noted the importance of transparency and disseminating information regarding patents and licenses worldwide. With regards to access, Karin Timmermans, technical manager on IP at UNITAID, said, “It is one thing if you’re stuck by a patent. It’s a different thing if you’re getting stuck by a patent you believe might exist but doesn’t and this is a lost opportunity.”

Peter Beyer, coordinator for public health, innovation and intellectual property at the World Health Organization, commended the database as “a step forward for whole public health community which will help all those who do procurement for LMICs and will also help companies to engage in local production.”

In the Q&A, Beyer said it is possible to get data on patents on medicines in Europe, but not easy for many countries. So when the results do not show a patent in those countries it does not mean there is not a patent just that the data is not there. For instance, he said he participated when a group of intergovernmental organisations gave a workshop in the United Arab Emirates and found that there were some patents on hepatitis C medicines written down in print in the country but not electronically available. To know if they have a patent one would have to go there, he noted. Finally, in answer to a question, Beyer said he thought a database in biologics would be “doable,” but that it might be more complicated and expensive.

Collaboration and Activities of the EPO, IPO, WIPO

Alessia Volpe, coordinator of public policy at the EPO, outlined EPO’s strong commitment to patent transparency and underscored the importance of partnerships with other specialized IGOs and NGOs to expand the reach of patent information to new stakeholders. The EPO collects, digitizes and publishes patent information from over 90 countries worldwide said Volpe. Over 90 million patent documents are in the EPO’s Espacenet database, with an integrated translation tool resulting from a partnership with Google. The tool works in 32 different languages , including Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Russian.

Volpe also described the functioning of the Global Dossier which connects the IP5 offices (China, EPO, Japan, South Korea, and United States) and gives instant public access to data relating to applications cross-filed at these five offices, saving time and money for users. According to Volpe, public organizations, just like the private sector, can benefit from patent information to support for instance their licensing negotiations.

Rajesh Dixit from the Office of the Controller General of Patents, Designs and Trademarks ofIndia, shared the experience of the Indian patent office with managing patent information. Dixit set out that new procedure has been put in place to submit online applications in a move towards “paperless offices” and the 4 patent offices in India were to be integrated electronically. Adatabase with information relating patent applications and registration was available to the public on the Indian patent office’s website in a free and transparent manner said Dixit.

Alejandro Roca Campana, senior director advisor to WIPO’s Global Infrastructure Sector, communicated WIPO’s policy on dissemination of patent information, based on principles such as the modernization of IP systems, worldwide diffusion of information and the effective use of patent information for technology and scientific advancement. Campana further described other activities and projects by WIPO, citing in particular its database PatentScope and its extension Chemsearch, which facilitates the search for chemical compounds.