Symposium on Public Policy Patent Landscaping in the Life Sciences

organized by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in cooperation with the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO)

(April 7 and 8, 2008 - WIPO, 34, chemin des Colombettes, Geneva, Room B)

The Life Sciences Symposium on public policy patent landscaping in the life sciences is taking place within the context of a cooperation program between the FAO and WIPO on patent landscaping for policymakers.

The Symposium comprises 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 (this segment is supported by WIPO to supplement the peer review on plant genetic resources).

The Symposium draws together two important trends:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

This Symposium aims to take a first step towards more systematically matching the policy needs – the international policy agenda on public policy issues of concern in the life sciences – with the practical capacities – the diverse resources that are now increasingly available to gather, analyze and extract key trends and findings from patent information.

Pitched at a technical, exploratory level, the Symposium will share experience on and review the practical possibilities for matching patent information systems and patent analysis tools and methodologies with the information needs and current policy concerns of policymakers in the life sciences, in particular concerning food and public health.

To provide a practical focus, experts will present and review current patent landscaping projects on key food crops and gene expression technologies, on the influenza virus and on treatment, diagnosis and prevention of neglected diseases.

Patent landscapes shed light on what is actually patented, where and by whom. The event further aims to promote practical coordination and mutual learning between agricultural biotechnology and public health patent landscaping initiatives and to consider future directions for cooperation and partnerships on public policy patent landscaping in the life sciences.

This symposium takes place within a series of policy symposia that are intended to identify and clarify the intellectual property dimension in the life sciences. They are addressed to a wide range of stakeholders, including international policymakers, government agencies, legislators, delegates, and civil society actors. The symposium offers an open forum for exchanging information and experiences in relation to the interaction between life sciences innovation and the intellectual property system.

It is explicitly not aimed at assessing or influencing discussions in any other forum and will not produce any formal outcome. It is not intended to shape or influence policy discussions in WIPO or elsewhere, but will concentrate on the contribution of objective information that is more accessible and more useful for policymakers.

An expert level preliminary technical review will be undertaken on the project on patent landscaping on key agricultural crops that has been undertaken by WIPO and the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (IT-PGRFA) of the FAO in collaboration. This will immediately precede the symposium itself and will feed directly into the peer review process at the symposium.