Clarity in approach to IP management

AstraZeneca, GSK and Merck KGaA publicly disclose their patent filing and enforcement policy, and disclose or commit to disclose their patent status and licensing approach to support third party manufacture and/or supply of patented products.


  • What: Three companies measured in the Access to Medicine Index 2016 (AstraZeneca, GSK, Merck KGaA) hit the marks across all stakeholder expectations of transparency of IP management.
  • Objective: Clarity in approach to IP management provides confidence to international drug procurers (for the supply of) and generic manufacturers (for the manufacture and supply of) patented medicines to low- and middle-income countries.
  • Context: This is a new standard of company practice since the Access to Medicine Index 2014.
  • Change: It is evidence of a more responsible approach towards IP management.

Looking closer

AstraZeneca, GSK and Merck KGaA have all published frameworks that show how they plan to manage their intellectual property.

They all include policies on not filing for and/or not enforcing patent rights and clearly state where these policies apply. All three companies have stated how and where they would consider issuing licences that facilitate manufacture, and all either disclose or commit to disclosing the statuses of their patent. Both AstraZeneca and Merck KGaA disclose patent statuses, and GSK commits to doing so in the future.

These practices combined help to maximise the confidence of third parties that they may manufacture and/or supply generic products to specific countries without risk of patent infringement. This can help international drug procurers to make more cost-effective decisions about their product choices, and can help promote generic competition in countries, with the potential for improved affordability, and greater security of supply.

This standard of practice is new in the Access to Medicine Index 2016. The standard in the 2014 Index was simple disclosure of filing/enforcement policies, without accessory disclosure of information about patent status, or whether the company was prepared to consider voluntary licensing of their products.

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