OECD Conference Considers Evidence That Patents Hinder Research 18/05/2006 by Tove Iren S. Gerhardsen for Intellectual Property Watch 1 Comment Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)MADRID – During the first half of a two-day of an intellectual property conference, studies presented on whether patenting affects access for researchers concluded that although there is an access problem, it may not be a major problem for academic researchers. But the discussion showed that conference participants differ on the problem, as well as on solutions. The 18-19 May conference is being held by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the Spanish National Research Council, and the Spanish Patent and Trademark Office, with the support of the European Patent Office. Dominique Guellec of the Directorate for Science, Technology and Industry at the OECD (who recently joined from the European Patent Office) told Intellectual Property Watch that the OECD has had a mandate to look into this issue since January 2004, and that although it has held two previous major conferences on intellectual property, this is the first looking specifically at access to research. He said that the press as well as research publications have been highlighting this issue recently. Guellec said one of the aims of the conference is to establish evidence that patents hinder access. “Certain people complain but there is not enough evidence to establish the case,” he said, although he acknowledged that there are cases. John Barton, a law professor at Stanford Law School (US), said in his keynote speech that problems arise with certain patents such as some related to breast cancer research involving genes (called BRCA) which are patented by Myriad. The patenting of this can stop others from using not only certain gene sequences but also other research results that could be used for further research, he said. Patents may have an “unintended scope,” he said. “We are not currently at the correct balance.” He said that the access problem is more serious for industry than academia. He said the goal should be to prevent the initial inventor from having control of subsequent invention. John Walsh, associate professor of sociology at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said in an interview that it was his understanding that the OECD wanted to hear evidence and opinion to evaluate whether patents have adverse effects on biomedical research, and is treating it as an open question. Walsh presented a 2003 interview-based study that showed that it appeared to be more difficult to get permission for researchers to use “tangible” products such as a cell line, an organism or a genetically modified mouse than for intellectual property. He said some 19 percent of the most recent requests had been denied access to use tangible products. But in general few academics are aware that others hold patents that could stop them from using their research and few institutions have a policy of notifying faculty to check, he said. Only eight percent of those asked said they had been in need of knowledge patented by others, and only five percent said they regularly check for patents. Jana Asher of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) unveiled new findings from a survey on access to research being conducted in Germany, the United Kingdom, the United States and Japan. The US part has just been completed as a web-based survey, and among the conclusions is that it requires “a large amount of time” to acquire exclusive licenses in the United States, Asher said. Also, 32 percent of the 4,000 surveyed (843 relevant respondents) said they had tried to acquire access to patented technology, she said. Nine percent had abandoned their research projects as a result, Asher said. She concluded that patents are still the preferred method of protection in the United States, but the difficulties encountered with access were lower for academia than for industry. Asher found, however, that among German scientists, publication of findings in scientific journals was more desirable than patenting. Sadao Nagaoka of the Institute of Innovation Research at the Japanese Hitotsubashi University presented a study among Japanese biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies. He said of 36 firms that had tried to get access to others’ patented inventions, some 20 percent had given up their projects. Of the remainder, more than 50 percent of the companies sought licensing agreements, he said. Thirty percent used alternative research methods and 20 percent ignored the patents, he said. Guellec of the OECD suggested that failure to get access to innovations in some cases could limit duplication of research. The first session focused on the presentation of surveys. Guellec said that later in the conference, scientists were to testify on problems they have encountered. Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window) Related "OECD Conference Considers Evidence That Patents Hinder Research" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.