Intellectual Property Rights Series No. 12

Some Intellectual Property Issues Related to H5N1 Influenza Viruses, Research and Vaccines

By Edward Hammond

Publisher: TWN (ISBN: 978-983-2729-83-9)

Year: 2009    No. of pages: 40


Concern about the possibility of a new influenza pandemic has sparked increased scientific interest in influenza viruses, particularly the H5N1 virus that causes Bird Flu. Currently, global vaccine production capacity cannot meet the potential demand of a major Bird Flu outbreak and there are concerns that traditional vaccine production methods are poorly adapted for H5N1 vaccines.

As Bird Flu research increases and vaccine technology changes, a growing number of corporate and government laboratories are laying patent claims to influenza virus genes, gene sequences, treatments, and vaccines. These include proprietary claims on viruses originating in developing countries and that were shared with the international community for public health purposes. These claims threaten the ability of countries to prepare for a pandemic because they potentially restrict access to treatments and may make them too expensive for many countries to afford. In response to these problems, many developing countries are seeking reform of the World Health Organisation’s Global Influenza Surveillance Network (GISN), to make sharing of the benefits from influenza research more fair and equitable.

This report reviews recent trends in patenting of influenza viruses and treatments, and provides details on a number of specific patent applications by corporations and government laboratories. It also provides  information on corporate concentration in the vaccine industry, with a  view to raising awareness of the implications of the wave of influenza  patent claims and of the importance of reforming the international  system for sharing influenza viruses and research results.


EDWARD HAMMOND is an American policy researcher who has worked on biodiversity, biological weapons, and infectious disease since 1994. From 1999 to 2008 he directed the Sunshine Project, an international non-governmental organisation specialising in biological weapons control. Hammond was Program Officer for the Rural Advancement Foundation International (now the ETC Group) from 1995 to 1999.  He is a member of the Pugwash Study Group on the Chemical and Biological  Weapons Conventions and holds MS and MA degrees from the University of  Texas at Austin, USA, where he was an Inter-American Foundation Masters  Fellow. Hammond lives in Bogota, Colombia.


1.      Introduction


2.      Trends in International Patent Application Activity Related to Influenza Vaccines, Treatments, and Diagnostics          

3.      International Patent Applications Including Claims on H5N1 Genetic Material and Variations Thereof       

         Box: Methodological Problems with the Cambia Influenza Patent Landscape          

4.      Some Claims and Strategies Used by Patent Applicants         

5.      Further IP Considerations: Reverse Genetics Patents and WHO GISN H5N1 Vaccine Seed Strains         

6.      Antisera Research: Emerging Intellectual Property Claims  

7.      Conflicting Priorities: Public Research and Private Patents, Two Examples 

Appendix: The Fast-changing Landscape of Takeovers and Licensing of Influenza Vaccine Technologies (Tables)


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