English Translation : Summary of PReMA TV’s – 32 minutes interview
26 April 2011
Dr. Tanit Changthavorn, Intellectual Property Specialist at National Center for Genetic Engineering and. Biotechnology (BIOTEC)
Innovation is directly linked to intellectual property and patent. Therefore, PReMA TV this week brings the issue up in the interview session with our guest, Dr. Tanit Changthavorn, an intellectual property specialist at the National Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (BIOTEC) with the topic of compulsory licenses in drugs in the back of our minds.
Dr.Tanit points out that intellectual property (IP) refers to various types of human creations that are recognized for their intrinsic values and benefits to be derived for humanity with income earning potentials. Patent is one form of exclusive rights granted to the products and production process such as food items or drugs. The protection of intellectual property comes in the forms of legislations related to various creative works, including industrial asset in the forms of copyrights, trademarks, trade secrets, plant species protection and patents. Moreover, there are also local wisdoms to be protected. IP laws in Thailand number 6 or 7 according to the assets involved. They are meant to promote the creation and development of produce and products for beneficial uses.
In the intellectual property system, the cycle starts with the creation, involving inventors, inventing and funding agencies, to protection, by inventors, funding agencies, Department of Intellectual Property (DIP), and patent representatives, to the utilization of protection rights, by right owners, industries, lawyers, and funding sources, and finally, the enforcement of IP laws and dispute settlements, involving right owners, lawyers, police, attorneys, DIP and the court of justice.
For Thailand, in particular, the protection of local wisdoms has been highlighted, as the asset handed over by ancestors from generation to generation. This coincides with the creative economy policy launched by the Government, which encourages local communities to turn to their roots and find local wisdoms that can be extended to create incomes for the localities and communities.
As for drugs, Dr.Tanit points out that when an innovative drug is developed, the formula has to be patented, as a huge amount is involved in the research and development process. He has been told that one drug is developed at an investment of US$ 1,300 million, or about Baht 45,000 million. However, when it comes to drugs, concerns are raised over the possibility of expensive drugs that make them inaccessible by the general public. Thus, IP law governing drugs has provisions to create a balance between private and common interests, that is between exclusive rights and the control with competition law, the timeframe for patent enforcement at 20 years from the date of patent registration and the granting of compulsory licensing, allowing someone else to produce the patented product or process, in case the patent owner uses his/her rights inappropriately.
CL cannot be imposed at will in all cases, as it has to meet the stipulated conditions, mainly in cases of emergency, shortage, inaccessibility of drugs, with impact on a country’s health system. Procedure has to be followed, starting with negotiations or advance notices to patent owners, with the process conducted in transparency and with participation by all involved. Scope of CL has to be defined concerning the duration, activities and compensations. Thailand had resorted to CL for AIDS drugs, with proposed diseases to be announced, but with the change in the administration, the issue was halted.
As for consumers, they must consider whether the patents have made drugs more expensive. The answer is no, as the patenting has not added significantly to expenses. Also, they have to understand that the production industry has to make profit in order to survive. And for drugs, research and development needs to be motivated.
Dr. Tanit views that the use of CL should be confined to drugs for the poor, such as AIDS and TB, not for all diseases. Also, a clear process must be followed, giving priority to negotiations with patent owners. The CL process should only start after all negotiations fail.
The concept of intellectual property protection, on the other hand, has to be based on proper attitude and behavior of the people at large, such as in Japan where intellectual property is made a national culture, with creators of works know how to protect their creations, while respecting others’ rights. BIOTEC has joined forces with the DIP, True Visions and British Council in the Young IP Law Ambassador Award, and has found that more and more students are interested in IP laws. Pre-university students are next targeted, as intellectual property is significant in terms of the national economy. BIOTEC is currently working with the National Science and Technology Development Agency, the National Research Council and the DIP to bring innovation into optimal use in line with the creative economy policy.
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