Patenting activity and international policy debate in lifesciences

http://www.wipo.int/wipo_magazine/en/2008/04/article_0005.html

This is an article from a recent WIPO magazine.  What the article says is that the patent sytem can provide key indicators for policy makers by looking questions such as:

 
“How much of the rice genome has been patented? By whom? What is the practical impact of this for farmers, breeders and agricultural researchers? What is the geographical coverage of patents on key technologies …. for plant biotechnology, … where is technology already in the public domain? What technological and commercial opportunities do these offer developing countries? What are the implications for multilateral agreements in the fields of health, plant genetic resources and the environment?”

Specifially relating to agricultural biotech the following was of interest:
 
“Working with the FAO, an expert team using inputs from India, Brazil, Europe and North America developed an overview of patent activities on gene promoters – key tools used in agricultural biotechnology. The landscaping contrasts the different technological and commercial patterns developed around several key food crops – soybeans, maize, potato and rice. This is intended to guide policymakers implementing the international system for benefit sharing resulting from the use of plant genetic resources in developing new agricultural products.”

Of course, the patent system is a complicated and constantly moving target.  However, this WIPO article suggests that progress is being made to mine this data to enhance policy debates.  The information is there, it was always an objective of the patent system to exchange this knowledge – now, with online access the focus is on how to process and use this distillation of research results!

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