Briefing note for 31st WIPO Standing Committee on the Law of Patents
On 2 December 2019, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) presented a statement at the World Intellectual Property Organization’s (WIPO’s) 31st Standing Committee on the Law of Patents, expressing concerns regarding WIPO’s ongoing partnership with the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association (IFPMA) on the Pat-INFORMED database – a database of drug patent information based on voluntary sharing by patent-holding pharmaceutical corporations. This partnership between WIPO and IFMPA is deeply flawed, and in the statement, MSF raised critical questions around conflicts of interest in view of current discussions on the need to improve transparency of medicine and vaccine patent information.
Improved transparency on the status of medicine and vaccine patents through a publicly-accessible database would help ensure that low-quality patent applications that unjustifiably hinder generic competition are rejected.
However, the Pat-INFORMED database relies solely on information provided by patent-holding pharmaceutical corporations and lacks a neutral mechanism to verify information with national patent officers or to perform a quality control on data that is submitted. This is problematic because pharmaceutical corporations may only provide information that furthers their commercial interests and could block price-lowering generic competition.
This briefing note outlines MSF’s concerns around Pat-INFORMED and provides examples to illustrate how the database provides biased, selective, incomplete and often inaccurate information on medicine and vaccine patents.