E-DRUG: Call for Proposals: Accessing Patented Knowledge for Innovation
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International Development Research Centre (IDRC)
Call for Proposals "Accessing Patented Knowledge for Innovation"
[All correspondence about this Call for Proposals should be directed to:
Other questions about support for IP research in general from IDRC can be
directed to Robert Robertson at email@example.com ]
The Innovation, Technology and Society Program at IDRC is issuing a Call for
Proposals on the subject "Accessing Patented Knowledge for Innovation".
Proposals should address how developing countries can access technologies and
information contained in existing patents to enhance innovative research at the
Closing date is November 30, 2007.
Call for Proposals
On the path to development many emerging nations focused on importing
scientific and technical knowledge from other countries. Following that, they
tried to copy and master it. Working and re-working existing knowledge rather
than creating new knowledge through research is a predominant activity in
innovation. As many technologies and much knowledge are proprietary in nature
and form the subject matter of patents owned by foreign entities, a key
national policy instrument is the intellectual property rights regime. How it
reflects and balances relevant international commitments with the goal of
advancing the economic and social rights of its citizens is crucial in
promoting their best interests.
This is a Call for Proposals on how developing countries can access
technologies and information contained in existing patents to enhance
innovative research at the national level. Proposals can be made under any one
of the following three headings:
1. THE RESEARCH EXEMPTION: Article 30 of TRIPS permits exceptions to the
exclusive rights of the patent-holder providing it is limited, does not
prejudice the patent-holder?s legitimate interests or conflict with its normal
exploitation of the patent. This can include research on patented technology.
In some countries it also includes research aimed at the early introduction of
The research exemption is articulated differently in different national legal
systems. It can either be contained in a national statute or arise in the
common law. Usually it applies to all categories of researchers, though in a
few countries is limited to private or academic researchers. Many developing
country laws characterize the exemption as being for experiment, others for
scientific purposes, and some for education. Some countries specifically
exclude commercial purposes. Others say it can be for technological purposes,
which points to applied and perhaps eventual commercial use. Some countries
have the so-called Bolar exemption that permits using the technology with the
aim of obtaining prior approval from health regulators for a generic product
prior to the expiration of the patent.
It is the diversity of formulations that give rise to the suggestion that the
research exemption is not formulated with sufficient breadth to take advantage
of its potential as a spur to innovation. Studies indicate that the
pre-existence of a patent may diminish research in a given area due to the fear
of litigation, the high cost of royalties and the complexity of licensing
Proposals could address these or other questions:
What is the real impact of the research exemption on research in key sectors
for developing countries?
Is the productivity of international research networks being reduced by
restrictive formulations of the research exemption in developed countries?
How is the research exemption best expressed to promote innovation and
development-related research and to what extent have developing countries used
2. COMPULSORY LICENCES: Article 31 of TRIPS provides for States to grant a
compulsory licence only where efforts have been unsuccessful to obtain one on
reasonable commercial terms. Exceptions to this are cases of national
emergency or other extreme urgency or in cases of public non-commercial use.
The license must be non-exclusive, limited in time and scope, and predominantly
to supply the domestic market. The owner must be adequately compensated. In
policy terms, compulsory licensing is desirable to control high prices on such
things as medicines and text books, to break anti-competitive behaviour, to
ensure a market is sufficiently supplied, to ensure a patent is exploited, to
address an emergency, to address issues relating to dependent patents, and to
establish a research or industrial base.
Proposals could address these or other questions:
How can the right to a compulsory license be most effectively and liberally
framed to permit access to technology for research?
How should developing countries implement the Doha Declaration permitting
access to patented technologies when facing a health crisis?
Is the patenting of platform technologies preventing work on whole families of
inventions? What measures can be taken to overcome that?
What is the significance of the patents on research tools for use in sectors
that are key for developing countries? What can be done to ensure their
availability, especially to publicly funded organizations?
3. PATENT POOLS: A patent pool is an agreement between patent-holders to
license their respective patents to one another or to third parties on a
non-exclusive basis. It can be done directly or through an intermediary.
Patent pools can be mandated by government or arranged by industry where patent
thickets have developed rendering technological progress difficult;
historically this occurred in the aircraft and sewing machine industries. In
biotechnology they have been considered as a means of addressing the perceived
difficulties created by a growing interdependence among gene patents owned by
multiple patent holders and increasingly burdensome transaction costs
associated with gene patent licences. In general, patent pools can help
integrate complementary technologies, reduce transaction costs, clear blocking
positions, avoid costly litigation and promote dissemination.
Patent clearing-houses are special patent pools that cover a particularly broad
range of technologies and are more likely to rely on a single entity to
coordinate the administrative functions. They provide information about the
patented technologies and often feature knowledgeable industry participants
able to divide the patents into appropriate categories. They may also provide
an arbitration mechanism for monitoring and enforcing contracts.
Proposals might address these or other questions:
What low-margin research in developing countries would be promoted through the
use of patent pools?
To what extent can patent pooling address some of the key challenges that IPRs
may pose for development-related research such as in the health sector?
In what circumstances should patent pooling be mandated by government to permit
What has been the impact of patent clearing-houses, how can developing
countries best benefit from them, and what can be done to establish and sustain
HOW TO APPLY
This call for proposals is limited to developing country institutions.
The lead researcher and key members of the team should be citizens or residents
of a developing country.
Six grants of approximately $75,000 Canadian will be made after the close of
the competition on November 30, 2007.
Applications will be judged by IDRC.
Applications should be made electronically in the format of the competition
application form found at
and sent by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Applicants are strongly encouraged to read the following background paper
entitled ?Accessing Patented Knowledge for Innovation? to assist in addressing
the issues. The document can be accessed from
for Proposals - Accessing Patented Knowledge for Innovation 2007-06-27
This CFP can be downloaded in PDF format.
Fill out the application form and submit by email to
Paper on Accessing Patented Knowledge for Innovation 2007-06-27
Applicants are strongly encouraged to read this background paper to assist in
addressing the issues of this call for proposals.
Special Advisor (Law and Development)
Leela McCullough, Ed.D.
Director of Information Services
AED-SATELLIFE Center for Health Information and Technology
30 California Street, Watertown, MA 02472, USA
Tel: +617-926-9400 Fax: +617-926-1212