The UNITAID Patent Pool Initiative: Bringing Patents Together for the Common Good

Jorge Bermudez*, Ellen 't Hoen
UNITAID, 20, Avenue Appia, WHO Headquarters, CH-1211, Geneva 27, Switzerland

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© Bermudez and 't Hoen; Licensee Bentham Open.

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* Address correspondence to this author at the UNITAID, 20, avenue Appia, WHO Headquarters, CH-1211, Geneva 27, Switzerland; Tel: +41 22 791 50 65; Fax: +41 22 791 48 90; E-mail:


Developing and delivering appropriate, affordable, well-adapted medicines for HIV/AIDS remains an urgent challenge: as first-line therapies fail, increasing numbers of people require costly second-line therapy; one-third of ARVs are not available in pediatric formulations; and certain key first- and second-line triple fixed-dose combinations do not exist or sufficient suppliers are lacking. UNITAID aims to help solve these problems through an innovative initiative for the collective management of intellectual property (IP) rights – a patent pool for HIV medicines. The idea behind a patent pool is that patent holders - companies, governments, researchers or universities - voluntarily offer, under certain conditions, the IP related to their inventions to the patent pool. Any company that wants to use the IP to produce or develop medicines can seek a license from the pool against the payment of royalties, and may then produce the medicines for use in developing countries (conditional upon meeting agreed quality standards). The patent pool will be a voluntary mechanism, meaning its success will largely depend on the willingness of pharmaceutical companies to participate and commit their IP to the pool. Generic producers must also be willing to cooperate. The pool has the potential to provide benefits to all.