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4-Patents: Biotech industry fights disclosure in patents on three IP policy fronts

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TITLE:  Biotech Industry Fights Disclosure In Patents On Three IP Policy
SOURCE: IP Watch, Switzerland
DATE:   02 Mear 2006

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Biotech Industry Fights Disclosure In Patents On Three IP Policy Fronts

For the coming months, key biotechnology industry organisations are
focusing their efforts on blocking the addition of disclosure of origin
requirements in international patent applications on three fronts.

The issue is being debated in three international fora: the World Trade
Organization, the World Intellectual Property Organization and the
Convention on Biological Diversity.

Industry is mustering resources to convince governments in each of these
bodies not to support proposals to force them to disclose the origin of
genetic resources in their patent applications, according to Jacques
Gorlin, president of the recently formed American BioIndustry Alliance.

The ABIA is based in Washington, DC, but is active in Geneva, home of
the WTO and WIPO. The ABIA is set up as a non-profit, non-governmental
organisation advocating for biotechnology patenting and against any
amendment of WTO rules to create mandatory disclosure requirements. The
group is working to "counter the unprecedented global threat to
biotechnology patents in the WTO," it states. It is the only industry
group solely focused on the intellectual property issues facing the
biotech industry, according to Gorlin.

Member companies of the ABIA include: Bristol Myers-Squibb, Eli Lilly,
Hana Biosciences, General Electric, Merck, Pfizer, Procter & Gamble and
Tethys Research.

Gorlin, who is president of the Gorlin Group (a Washington, DC
consulting firm), played a key role in the drafting of the 1994 WTO
Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights
(TRIPS), as documented in the 2003 book, Private Power, Public Law, by
George Washington University professor Susan Sell.

Gorlin was in Geneva to attend a portion of the WIPO open forum on the
draft Substantive Patent Law Treaty, which would improve harmonisation
of national patent laws. He also met informally with US and other
officials while at the WIPO event, as well as with clients in London
earlier in the week, and at the International Chamber of Commerce in
Paris on Thursday.

At the WTO, the issue of disclosure is being considered in the Doha
negotiating round, driven by India and kept alive at the WTO Hong Kong
ministerial in December. Disclosure is discussed under the topic of the
relationship between WTO rules and the CBD, and is considered an
"implementation" issue. The ministerial declaration called for more
consultations on the issue, and they are being held until a 31 July deadline.

The next WTO TRIPS Council meeting will be held on 14-15 March, and will
address implementation issues including disclosure. On the evening of
the 14th, ABIA and the Biotechnology Industry Organisation (BIO) will
hold an event for key delegations following the issue in the TRIPS
Council, Gorlin said. At the event, business representatives will
discuss their concerns and views on intellectual property and biotech,
and try to drive home why additional disclosure would be not help
developing countries address the problems they are seeking to fix.
Developing countries generally are seeking greater benefits for the use
of their genetic resources.

"We think industry's comparative advantage is telling a story," he said.
The message will be: "We are the people who you are depending on to
generate commercial benefits. If you do it through the disclosure
system, it ain't gonna happen."

The problem, he said, is that countries tell industry to patent their
products and ideas, but then can take it away, which leads to
uncertainty. "Industry is able to plan for good certainty and plan for
bad certainty but it cannot plan for uncertainty," he said.

At WIPO, the issue is discussed in the Intergovernmental Committee on
Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and
Folklore (IGC). The European Union and Switzerland have proposals there
that industry opposes, and which Gorlin argues would not satisfy India
and others who want benefit-sharing schemes linked to patents. The next
IGC meeting is 24-28 April.

Europe is considering moving its WIPO proposal to the WTO, according to
a source. At the WTO, Europe is looking for ways to move its proposal on
the protection of geographical indications, which are products like
certain foods named after places.

At the CBD, the disclosure issue made surprising progress at a recent
meeting of the access and benefit sharing working group meeting in
Granada, Spain, where it adopted three draft documents recommending a
new international regime for the use of genetic resources (IPW,
Biodiversity, 3 February). The recommendations will be taken up at the
next CBD Conference of Parties meeting 20-31 March in Curitiba, Brazil.

Gorlin predicted that the Conference of Parties is likely to continue
the mandate of the access and benefit sharing group and have it report
back at the next conference in two years. Industry also has been working
to win greater support from the CBD, and has been pleased with signs
that the new CBD executive secretary is reaching out to industry.

Plan: Work with Friends, India

According to Gorlin, the lobbying strategy for the coming months then
becomes bi-level: Maintain the support of friendly countries such as
Australia, Canada, Korea, Japan, New Zealand and the United States, and
work to soften India's stance.

"The country that remains an enigma is India," said Gorlin, because it
has a billion-dollar biotechnology industry and yet continues to push
for disclosure requirements. "India is not hearing its biotech
industry." The plan is to begin a dialogue with Indian industry, he said.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License. All of the news
articles and features on Intellectual Property Watch are also subject to
a Creative Commons License which makes them available for widescale,
free, non-commercial reproduction and translation.

European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering

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