Intellectual Property Management Strategies to Accelerate the Development and Access of Vaccines and Diagnostics: Case Studies on Pandemic Influenza, Malaria, and SARS
This report from an April 2006 meeting of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) originally appeared in Volume 2, Number 2 of the online journal Innovation Strategies Today (http://biodevelopments.org/innovation-strategy-today.html). It was also made available as Paper 43 in the Pierce Law Faculty Scholarship Series by the New England Law Library Consortium (nellco.org).
Achieving global access to vaccines, diagnostics, and pharmaceuticals remains a challenge. Throughout the developing world, intellectual property (IP) constraints complicate access to critically essential medical technologies and products. Vaccines for malaria and pandemic strains of influenza, as well as diagnostic and vaccine technologies for SARS, are not only relevant to global public health but are particularly critical to the needs of developing countries. A global access solution is urgently needed. This article offers a timely case-by-case analysis of preliminary patent landscape surveys and formulates options via patent pools and other forms of creative IP management to accelerate development and access. The analysis of the feasibility of patent pools reveals several impediments to patent pools: these include anti-trust considerations, bargaining difficulties caused by asymmetric interests and asymmetric rights among IP holders (e.g. improvement vs. foundational patents) and the difficulties of securing financial support given the significant transaction costs associated with pools.
Because of the above conceptual and operational hurdles, patent pools do not appear to be a feasible way to accelerate development. Other mechanisms, however, can ameliorate IP constraints. For example, a key IP constraint related to pandemic influenza vaccines R&D appears to have been resolved when MedImmune secured the assembly of all relevant reverse genetics IP and pledged broad access. Clearly, the landscape is complex and multi-dimensional. Licensing systems are not the only issue. Measures must also be taken to limit regulatory hurdles and enable the swift, legal production of pandemic influenza vaccines to meet the needs of developing countries. This is why a comprehensive analysis is so necessary.
From a strictly legal perspective, IP systems work through the power to exclude. However, as this study's exploration and formulation of creative licensing strategies reveals, it is also true that IP can be structured and managed to work through the "power to include."