The patent table compiled by MSF in Annex A only provides data regarding a selected number of drugs and countries. The drugs chosen are essential medicines for which patents already constitute a barrier to access or might do so in the coming years. The countries selected are countries where MSF has field projects, or is planning to open them, i.e. in which human resources were made available to obtain patent information.
It should be stressed that the patents mentioned in the table are mostly patents protecting the basic molecule of a given medicine (usually including a manufacturing process) or in the case of old molecules, the target therapeutic use of this medicine, such as the prevention or treatment of HIV/AIDS.
We selected these particular patents not only because we couldn't search for all patents protecting a medicine (there may be a significant number in each country), but also because the patent related to the active ingredient of a medicine is generally the first applied for and therefore the first one to expire.
This doesn't mean that no additional patent may have been granted later on to protect a different manufacturing process, or an improved formulation with fewer side-effects, or a new combination, and so forth. We would like to insist that the lack or expiry of a patent in a given country as provided in the table doesn't necessarily mean that you can import or manufacture generic versions of the medicine without a risk of being sued by a potential patent holder.
To help people make patent searches in countries that are not mentioned in the table, we have included the main priority date and number of the priority patent application for each medicine, as well as the number of the related international patent application, when it exists, and, for the sake of illustration, the number of the equivalent European patent.
As explained in detail above, the priority date is key in determining the novelty of the invention, which may then give right to a patent. If your country is not included in the document, you could initiate a patent search by providing the priority details (date and number) of the patents related to the drug you are interested in to your patent office. You can also use the number of the international patent application to ask the patent office whether a patent has been granted in your country.
It is also advisable to first ask the patent office or WIPO from which date patents on medicines have been available in your country: if your country, like Guatemala or Peru, did not allow patenting of pharmaceuticals before a certain date, it is likely that patents with an earlier priority date will not be valid there. There would then be no need to initiate a patent search on these medicines in the local patent office.
The patent data in the table was obtained from and cross-checked between a variety of sources including local patent offices and a number of free Web sites, based on search by generic name, chemical formula and/or priority dates. Patent searches can be difficult for many reasons. We came across the following difficulties:
Click on image
Thai activists filing a second case at the Thai Central Intellectual Property and International Trade Court in October 2002, after winning the fist case (see previous page). This time the activists aim at the withdrawal of the BMS ddI patent in Thailand.