World Intellectual Property Organization

Exceptions and Limitations to Patent Rights

While the granting of exclusive patent rights is considered as an incentive for investment in innovative activities and the production of knowledge, allowing the enforcement of the full scope of the exclusive rights in all circumstances may not always meet the ultimate goal of the patent system to enhance the public welfare. Therefore, in order to strike the right balance between the interests of the right holders, third parties and the public, the scope of the enforceable exclusive rights may be set under national patent laws according to certain exceptions and limitations to patent rights that have been reserved for decision by individual countries.

Since the socio-economic conditions and priorities of a country influence this balancing of interests, provisions in patent laws on exceptions and limitations vary from one country to another. Nevertheless, the SCP has identified that the legislation of many countries provides some or all of the following exceptions and limitations to patent rights: (i) private and/or non commercial use; (ii) experimental use and/or scientific research; (iii) extemporaneous preparation of medicines; (iv) prior use; (v) use of articles on foreign vessels, aircrafts and land vehicles; (vi) acts for obtaining regulatory approval from authorities; (vii) exhaustion of patent rights; (viii) compulsory licensing and/or government use; and (ix) certain use of patented inventions by farmers and breeders.

SCP Working documents on the topic

Annex II of document SCP/12/3 Rev.2, which includes information on exceptions and limitations to patent rights in the national/regional patent systems, is regularly updated.

  • Exclusions From Patentable Subject Matter and Exceptions and Limitations to the Rights (SCP/13/3)
  • Proposal from Brazil (SCP/14/7)
  • Experts' Study on Exclusions from Patentable Subject Matter and Exceptions and Limitations to the Rights (SCP/15/3)

Introduction (Annex I)

Computer Programs As Excluded Patentable Subject Matter (Annex II)

Biotechnology (Annex III)

Patent Exclusions that Promote Public Health Considerations (Annex IV)

Patent Exceptions and Limitations in the Health Context (Annex V)

The Patent System and Research Freedom: A Comparative Study (Annex VI)

  • Draft Questionnaire on Exceptions and Limitations to Patent Rights (SCP/16/3 Rev.)
  • Responses to the Questionnaire on Exceptions and Limitations to Patent Rights (SCP/17/3 and SCP/17/3 Add.)
  • Overview of Responses to the Questionnaire on Exceptions and Limitations to Patent Rights (SCP/18/3)
  • Exceptions and Limitations to Patent Rights: Private and/or Non Commercial Use (SCP/20/3)
  • Exceptions and Limitations to Patent Rights: Experimental Use and/or Scientific Research (SCP/20/4)
  • Exceptions and Limitations to Patent Rights: Extemporaneous Preparation of Medicines (SCP/20/5)
  • Exceptions and Limitations to Patent Rights: Prior Use (SCP/20/6)
  • Exceptions and Limitations to Patent Rights: Use of Articles on Foreign Vessels, Aircrafts and Land Vehicles (SCP/20/7)
  • Seminar on Exceptions and Limitations (SCP/20)

Presentation by Dr. Cathy Garner, Board member of the Council on Health Research for Development (COHRED), London PDF, Effectiveness of Exceptions and Limitations in the Context of Development - Cathy Garner

Presentation by Dr. Nikolaus Thumm, Senior Visiting Fellow, Max-Planck Institute for Innovation and Competition, Munich PDF, Effectiveness of Patent Exceptions - Nikolaus Thumm

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