Enabling Innovation Policies

Trade restrictions are delaying the COVID response. The WTO must act

Together with Thaddeus Burns, Innovation Council member Merck LF, Jennifer Brant has co-authored a paper on the delay in the COVID response caused by trade restrictions and explains why the WTO must act. The human costs of the pandemic, already dire, continue to mount. Vaccines against COVID have been developed at an unprecedented pace through a series of unprecedented partnerships. But this is not the end of the story; there is still an urgent need to expand vaccine protection worldwide, including through the expansion of biologic drug production capacity.

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Q&A with Innovation Council members Wetility & Renewables in Africa

Innovation Council sat down with Vincent Maposa, the Founder and CEO of Wetility and Tony Tiyou, the Founder and CEO of Renewables in Africa, to talk about the beginnings of their companies and what made them successful.

Wetility is a rooftop solar PV technology company based in South Africa. It creates optimal capacity for stand-alone and sectional title homes and small commercial buildings. The company harnesses the power of the sun, with the aim of introducing the world to a hybrid solution that works seamlessly and in harmony with current power supply options.

Renewables in Africa is a clean energy engineering consultancy providing services in renewable energy and energy management to project developers and investors. RiA is primarily focused on projects in Africa, but it does advise clients about energy projects in other emerging markets as well. RiA is also a media platform with the vision to transform Africa and African lives by leveraging the power of renewable energy.

Wetility and Renewables in Africa work closely together.

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Panelists Discuss Why Patent Waiver Would Not Accelerate Global Vaccine Distribution

At a panel held in June by The Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys (CIPA), two vaccine scientists, Professor Robin Shattock (Imperial College, London) and Dr. Anne Moore (University College Cork) discussed their thoughts on why a patent waiver related to COVID-19 vaccines would not speed up vaccine distribution in lower income countries.

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HS codes relevant to inputs for COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics

Bio-pharmaceutical R&D and manufacturing inputs include: chemical or biological reagents; equipment used in laboratories; microscope parts; equipment for manufacturing such as single-use bioreactors; and the full range of raw materials used for R&D and production of vaccines and other bio-pharmaceuticals, such as guanidine thiocyanate. Researchers use these tools to make scientific breakthroughs, and bio-pharmaceutical companies rely on them to discover, develop, validate, and manufacture lifesaving vaccines, drugs, and therapies – including those necessary to address COVID-19 and future global health crises.

Some countries impose tariffs on bio-pharmaceutical inputs, in some cases as high as 25%. This raises costs and makes it more difficult for fledgling producers to compete. Eliminating tariffs on bio-pharmaceutical inputs could help to resolve some of the current global distribution challenges for COVID-related products, thereby helping to make the global COVID-19 response more equitable, affordable, and sustainable.

Unilateral elimination of COVID-19 related tariffs would provide substantial benefits in terms of the short-term dissemination of pharmaceutical inputs and vaccines.  Ultimately, however, tariff elimination should be made permanent and should cover a broader range of products. This would create legal certainty and predictability for actors along global value chains.

An appropriate vehicle for tariff elimination on inputs could be the WTO plurilateral agreement known as Zero for Zero, for which product coverage should be expanded to include the full range of COVID-19 bio-pharmaceutical inputs. In this respect, Innovation Council has developed a list of HS codes showing tariffs related to the inputs used for developing and producing COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics. The list was developed in partnership with private sector actors in these value chains.

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The Big Secret Behind the Proposed TRIPS Waiver

James Pooley, former Deputy Director General of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), describes in this article how TRIPS only creates obligations for governments to pass laws supporting intellectual property rights of certain kinds: patents, copyrights, designs, trademarks, and trade secrets. Importantly, it doesn’t affect the private ownership of those rights. This is an important distinction, especially for trade secrets (or “undisclosed information” as they are called in TRIPS), because, unlike the other “registered” rights, they don’t depend for their existence on government certification. Rather, trade secrets only require a legal system that enforces confidentiality.  Furthermore, although patents usually steal the limelight in conversations about “technology transfer,” the truth is that they are only a part of most technology transfer stories.  After all, in order to actually build the factory and produce the goods, you need to know more than what’s in the patents.

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25 inspiring stories of Latin American women

Given the importance of science and technology for advancing the SDGs – but against a backdrop of declining interest in scientific careers among youth, and a persistent gender gap in the STEM field – 3M has published the stories of 25 successful women in science in Latin America. The stories, curated from more than 1000 applications, are inspiring individual tales. They also highlight the broader positive impact these women have had on their societies. Kudos to 3M for shining a spotlight on the achievements of these impressive scientists.

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The Long Wait for Innovation: The Global Patent Pendency Problem

Mark Schultz and Kevin Madigan write in their informative, and still very pertinent, 2016 paper about patent pendency issues and the reasons for, and possible solutions to, the problem. Many patent offices simply lack sufficient examiners to handle the increasing volume of patent applications, and there are deficiencies in both processes and infrastructure. One possible solution is increasing the number and qualification of examiners; many countries are already prioritizing the hiring of new examiners to tackle patent delay and backlog problems. Work sharing is another option. Patents are increasingly filed in multiple jurisdictions, and this duplication creates the opportunity to share work or expedite applications that have already been granted by recognized jurisdictions. Yet another proposed solution is the removal of obstacles to final grants. Some countries insert additional procedures and reviews in between application and grant: India, for example, has a redundant pre-grant opposition procedure, while Brazil subjects pharmaceutical patent applications to double review by both its patent office and its drug regulator. Such procedures should be re-considered in light of the substantial cost of the delays they introduce, and, where they are redundant, they should be eliminated.

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Gender Profiles in UK Patenting: An analysis of female inventorship

This analysis by the UKIPO shows that, in the 1980s, women represented less than 4% of inventors on GB patent applications, but that this has steadily risen to over 8% in recent years. Although absolute numbers remain relatively low, the last 10 years have seen a 16% increase in the proportion of female inventors. The overall proportion of patents involving a female inventor (either working alone or as part of a team) has more than tripled, from 4% in 1980 to over 12% in 2015; at the same time, the last 10 years have seen the proportion of individual female inventors’ plateau at around 3.75%. The number of all-female teams has increased fivefold since 1980, but the absolute numbers are still very low, with only 0.33% of patents coming from all-female teams in 2015. Although historical analysis reveals ever-increasing levels of female patenting, the growth rate is slow and the absolute numbers are still very low. The world of patenting remains male-dominated, and, even in 2015, there is a clear gender disparity: 88% of all GB patent applications come from male individuals or all-male teams, and almost 96% teams that submit applications include at least one man.

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2017 Women’s Participation in Patenting: An Analysis of PCT Applications Originating in Canada

This report from 2017, by the Canadian Intellectual Property Office, examines international patent applications filed under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), in order to determine the share of inventors who are women and the share of PCT applications with at least one woman inventor. The report studies PCT applications by Canadian applicants, and finds that Canada has seen little change in the share of inventors who are women in the last 15 years, even as the world share continues to grow.

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