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Country classification

Patents are often criticised for having a role in inhibiting access to medications, including vaccines, in poor countries.  Because adjuvants are a common element to vaccines, if the critics are right, then we would expect to find patent applications filed in poor countries.  And probably there would be a disproportionate number of such patent applications. 

For this aspect of analysis, we used the World Bank's classification of countries.  Their main criterion is gross national income (GNI) per capita.  Based on GNI per capita, each country is classified as high income, middle income (subdivided into upper middle and lower middle), or low income.  High income countries have a GNI per capita of over USD 11,456; upper middle income of USD 3706 - 11455; lower middle income of USD 936 - 3705 and low income of USD 935 or less.  Low income and middle income economies are sometimes called "developing economies" and roughly correspond to what some call developing countries.

The country data were first stripped of patent filings in Europe Patent Organization or WIPO.  A WIPO patent application is merely a placeholder for future patent application filings in national patent offices and as such does not reflect any single economy.  Furthermore, essentially all WIPO patent applications are originally filed in a home country, which will be counted in this analysis.  For similar reasons, EPO patent filings were not considered.  The other regional patent offices, OAPI, ARIPO, GCC, and EA, comprise multiple countries as members; patent applications in these regional offices are only filed there (rare exceptions may exist).  The GCC comprises only high income countries (Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Saudia Arabia, Bahrain, and the Emirates), but the others comprise a mix of countries.  OAPI (Sub-Saharan Africa region) has 13 low income members, one upper middle and one lower middle income members; OAPI was grouped with other low income countries.  ARIPO (also Sub-Saharan Africa region) has 9 low income, 4 lower middle income, and 1 upper middle income country member; analysis was performed considering ARIPO as a low income economy, when analyzed as a lower middle income economy, the difference was less than 1%.  The Eurasian regional office has 1 low income, 5 lower middle income, and 2 upper middle income members; it was considered to be lower middle income.

percent patent filings per economyThe graph to the right illustrates that 85% of patent families have at least one patent application in a high economy country.  The remainder 15% of patent families represent either new filings for which related application filings have yet to be filed or published or applications lodged only in middle or low income countries.  Patent applications filed in a home country and then WIPO (a common scenario) will have a delay of a year or more between publication in the home country and in WIPO and publication in any other countries.  About one-quarter of patent families have an application in an upper middle or lower middle economy, while only about 2% are in low income economies.  Upper middle income countries include Brazil (14% of total families), South Africa (10% of total) and Mexico (8.5% of total).  The rest of the middle income countries (Poland, Russia, Turkey, Estonia, Croatia, Uruguay, Latvia, Romania, Serbia-Montenegro, Lithuania, and Malaysia) range from 5% down to 0.15% of total families.  The large fraction of filings in lower middle income families is mainly due to filings in China (25% of total families) and India (6%).  The other lower income countries are Ukraine and Eurasian countries (each 1.2 % of total), Indonesia, Morocco, Yugoslavia, Algeria and Phillipines, each of which is less than 0.3% of total families. 

Therefore, there doesn't appear to be substantial filing of patent applications outside of high income countries, except for China, Brazil, and South Africa (which also does not examine patent claims).  These data are a mixture of granted patents and patent applications.  The analysis does not distinguish between granted and pending patents, so it represents intentions to obtain a patent, and neither follow-through or scope of granted claims. 

The information contained in this page was believed to be correct at the time it was collated. New patents and patent applications, altered status of patents, and case law may have resulted in changes in the landscape. CAMBIA makes no warranty that it is correct or up to date at this time and accepts no liability for any use that might be made of it. Corrections or updates to the information are welcome. Please send an email to info@bios.net.

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