We consider it our responsibility to improve global access to healthcare through our technological advances. We support a reliable and transparent legal framework for intellectual property that allows sustainable investment in research and development.
Our approach to sharing and protecting intellectual property
The responsible treatment of intellectual property does not pose a barrier to health, but rather guarantees safety and high quality for patients worldwide. Nearly all medicines that address the highest burden of disease in low- and middle-income countries are not protected by patents. Studies indicate that between 90% and 95% of the pharmaceutical products on the WHO Model List of Essential Medicines are off-patent.
We support a sustainable approach to intellectual property that drives innovation and enables access to health. We have made a commitment to refrain from enforcing patents in a majority of low- and middle-income countries. In markets where we do register product patents, we are transparent and committed to sharing data to the greatest possible extent and to improving public access to clinical study data. We report on the patent status of our products via the publicly accessible database Pat-INFORMED. Furthermore, we support voluntary licensing agreements of all kinds, including non-exclusive voluntary licenses, legally binding non-assertion covenants and clauses that aim to widen access to health.
Moreover, we support the concept of patent pools, and believe that these should be structured in such a way that they improve access to medicines, prevent anti-competitive behavior and overcome geographic limitations. We consider joining patent pools when they are relevant to our portfolio and meet all our efficacy, quality and safety requirements.
We provide access to patent information through our initiatives and partnerships. Through our open innovation research projects, we give access to parts of our chemical compound libraries. We aim to accelerate collaborative research programs that develop novel R&D platforms in search of new active substances.
How we organize access to our intellectual property
The Merck Open Innovation initiative is a collaborative and cross-functional effort. We aim to accelerate early discovery in diseases with high unmet needs and outside of our expertise through intellectual property sharing. We hope to foster the discovery of new generations of health solutions that will tackle the needs of the most vulnerable populations, with a primary focus on neglected tropical diseases (NTDs).
Our commitment: Supporting transparent and reliable frameworks
We support TRIPS, an international agreement administered by the World Trade Organization (WTO) that addresses trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights, along with TRIPS addenda such as the Special Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health. This agreement extends the deadline for least developed countries to apply TRIPS provisions to pharmaceutical patents until 2033.
Initiative improves access to patent information
We are a founding member of the Patent Information Initiative for Medicines (Pat-INFORMED), which acts as a global gateway to medicine patent information. It offers tools and resources that help determine the existence of patents relevant to products sought by national and international drug procurement agencies, making it easier for them to access a basic body of patent information needed for implementing disease management strategies and other activities that address public health needs. Pat-INFORMED features patent information on small-molecule drugs for cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, hepatitis C, HIV, cancer, and respiratory disorders, as well as any products on the WHO Model List of Essential Medicines that are not within these therapeutic areas.
Open innovation collaboration through WIPO Re:Search
We continue to take part in the WIPO Re:Search Consortium co-led by Bio Ventures for Global Health and WIPO, whose mission is to accelerate the discovery and development of medicines, vaccines and diagnostics. In 2020, we renewed our commitment and contribution until 2022. The initiative aims to create new solutions for people affected by neglected tropical diseases, malaria and tuberculosis.
In 2020, we began implementing a collaboration agreement with Griffith Institute for Drug Discovery, Griffith University, Australia. For this collaboration, we have shared our chemical library for screening against leishmaniasis, Chagas disease and African sleeping sickness.
Creating research opportunities
In 2020, we launched the Open Global Health Library. It publicly shares 250 compounds from our proprietary chemical library that may be used for infectious diseases research, including antimicrobial resistance, with the not-for-profit R&D organization GARDP.
Additionally, our “Open Lab” initiative allows academic guest scientists to bring their own research and work side-by-side with our researchers in our laboratories, gaining access to our state-of-the art science and technology.
Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative
Under the leadership of the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi), along with other pharmaceutical companies, we are involved in the Drug Discovery Booster project to discover novel medicines against neglected tropical diseases.
More information on our collaborations regarding open innovation for global heath can be found on our website.