It is now generally acknowledged that the current
regime of patent protection put forward by the TRIPS Agreement
has a significant impact on the pharmaceutical sector. Furthermore,
low standards of patentability and weakness in patent procedures
have led to a considerable increase in the number of patents
being granted - patents that would otherwise fail to comply
with the patentability criteria of novelty, inventive step and
non-obviousness as understood in the traditional sense. Today,
many patent offices around the world are overwhelmed by the
influx of patents leading to a laxity in the examination process.
This has serious repercussions on the patent system. The increasing
number of 'bad patents' may also end up blocking downstream
innovation, and unecessarily defering the entry of competitive
firms thus impacting access to vital medicines and public health
In an effort to address this issue, the organising
institutions, WHO, UNCTAD and ICTSD co-sponsored the preparation
of draft guidelines on the examination of pharmaceutical patents.
These guidelines are aimed at supporting patent examiners, particularly
in developing countries, in maintaining an overall high level
of quality of patents, bearing in mind public health interests.
Additionally, the guidelines aim to contribute to an increased
transparency and efficiency of the patent system with respect
to pharmaceutical products.
In furtherance of this endeavour, the technical
consultation amongst a small group of experts was organised
to review and supplement the draft guidelines. The consultation
commenced with introductory remarks from the organising institutions.
This was followed by a presentation of the guidelines by Professor
Carlos Correa which set the tone for discussions amongst the