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Archived updates for Friday, May 20, 2005

AIDS Patent Pool Proposed

According to William New at Intellectual Property Watch, a proposal put forward by Consumers International and the Consumer Project on Technology (CP Tech) in the margins of the annual U.N. World Health Assembly on Tuesday would create an “Essential Patent Pool for AIDS� to “enable a sustainable scale up of the global AIDS campaign and expansion of access and creation of needed technologies to combat the AIDS pandemic.�

The proposed patent pool would be managed by a board of directors and would provide open licensing of patents in the pool to all suppliers of anti-retroviral medicines and technology. The initial list of patents in the pool would be developed by the patent pool, and the voluntary contribution of patents by patent holders would be sought for manufacture, import and export. If industry did not accept it voluntarily, then a compulsory license could be used.

One advantage to the pooled approach from a developing nation standpoint is that it would allow governments to join together on a compulsory license instead of one government facing the pressure that can accompany such a decision, she noted. It could also help generic producers innovate as some have feared litigation if they started producing in some countries and typically operate on small margins. Under the proposal, royalties for high-income countries would be determined through a formula reflecting “equitable� terms such as the relative therapeutic benefits of products and the affordability of royalties in countries depending on average incomes and the presence of HIV/AIDS.

In a discussion following the announcement, Jon Pender, director of government affairs for access issues and intellectual property at GlaxoSmithKline, reportedly showed a willingness to discuss the issue further, but said at first reaction that it might lead to research-based industry “washing its hands� (pulling out of) countries that joined the patent pool. An additional concern was that it might mean a reduction of investment in those pharmaceuticals, he said.
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