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Access to Medicines, Patent Information and Freedom to Operate

A Joint Technical Symposium by WHO, WIPO and WTO

February 18, 2011, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the WHO Headquarters, Executive Board Room, Avenue Appia 20, Geneva 

preceded by "A Workshop on Patent Searches and Freedom to Operate" on February 17, 2011 (afternoon), at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)

videos, Access to Medicines, Patent Information and Freedom to Operate, Symposium, February 2011Videos | Summary and Key Issues Summary and Key Issues of the Symposium on Access to Medicines, Patent Information and Freedom to Operate, February 2011 | WTO news item

Limited information on patent status of medical products and related problems for users of such information are frequently raised in policy discussions on access to medicines, including at a recent trilateral Technical Symposium on Access to Medicines: Pricing and Procurement Practices organized jointly by the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Geneva on July 16, 20101. The second of this series of joint symposia will therefore focus on access to medicines, patent information and freedom to operate. It will take place on February 18, 2011 at the WHO headquarters in Geneva.

A program is available. In addition, on February 17, 2011, a Workshop on Patent Searches and Freedom to Operate will be offered for those interested in learning more about the basic concepts of how to do patent searches and freedom to operate analysis. A program of the Workshop is also available Program, Workshop.

The Symposium will address the growing importance of patent information for public health in the fields of freedom to operate strategies, procurement of medicines, technology transfer, and setting of research priorities and strategies. The event will raise awareness and provide insights on the availability and use of reliable patent information in the endeavour of ensuring access to medicines.

The objective is to

  • highlight the importance of easy access to patent information for providing access to medicines;
  • show how patent information can be used in determining the freedom to operate for improving access to medicines;
  • explore what kind of patent information is required for this purpose;
  • explore to what extent this information is available and accessible; and
  • identify information gaps that need to be addressed.

The Symposium will focus on new research outcomes and data that will provide an empirical and practical basis for discussion. Speakers will present the outcome of some projects undertaken by the respective agencies and other experts. The Symposium will also consider the views of providers and users of intellectual property information. Users of health-related patent information, including representatives from the research based and generic pharmaceutical industry and procurement agencies as well as information providers such as national patent offices, will present their respective perspectives.

A background paper [PDF], which provides an annotated agenda as well as an overview of the underlying concepts and key terms is available.

The Symposium forms part of the on-going trilateral cooperation between the WHO, WIPO and WTO, which includes the implementation of the WHO Global Strategy and Plan of Action on Public Health, Innovation and Intellectual Property.

Participants are expected to be Geneva-based delegations to the WHO, WIPO and WTO, representatives of international and philanthropic organizations, experts on patent information, civil society organizations, and industry representatives that work with or are interested in learning more about health-related patent information.

Please note that the Symposium and Workshop will be held in English only; no interpretation will be available. Participation is open to all interested individuals and organizations, subject to availability of space. Registration is mandatory for both events. Should you wish to attend either or both of the events, please send an email to Monica Lamonge (lamongem@who.int) latest by February 11, 2011. E-mails requesting registration should include the participant's name, position and affiliation together with full contact details, and whether the registration is for the Symposium only or also for the workshop. Registered participants without UN or WTO accreditation need to bring official identification.

1Background information and presentations are available at: