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Towards European Collective Management of Public Intellectual Property for Agricultural Biotechnologies

Final Report Summary - EPIPAGRI (Towards European Collective Management of Public Intellectual Property for Agricultural Biotechnologies)

EPIPAGRI's overall objectives were to reinforce the role played by public research organisations (PROs) in strengthening European competitiveness, especially through support to small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and to increase the part taken by PROs in contribution to public welfare inside and outside Europe, in particular regarding emerging countries. EPIPAGRI aimed to face the fragmentation of European public intellectual property (IP) portfolios in the agricultural biotechnologies sector by experiencing the feasibility and benefit brought by joint management of IP of European PROs. EPIPAGRI's activities included the development of a patent information system composed of a database over patents owned by European PROs and a software package designed to help technology transfer charges d'affaires in collecting, extracting, and analysing IP information and in establishing patent clusters in reference to technological applications. The database and information system were made accessible through a web site designed to display partner IP and subsequently - invite incoming visitors (public or private, especially SMEs), and additional IP contributors (from public sector). EPIPAGRI made an inventory of patents owned or managed by participant PROs according a range of categories of selected technological applications with the aim of setting up patent clusters to be proposed to internal and external PROs for joint management and industrial partners for technology transfer and commercialisation. These clusters were evaluated at the scientific, technological and industrial use point of views. In particular the needs for pre-marketing technological development and economic studies for new applications were examined.

EPIPAGRI patents were grouped in a first set of application oriented clusters. A number of expert groups were established, according to the competences and the priorities of each partner and with the participation of all of them at least in one working group, with the objective of moving forward in the identification of patent baskets and patent pools from these first set of clusters. The schedule of evaluation criteria and topics to be addressed by these groups has been defined: enhanced attraction, freedom to operate, enhanced range of applications, increased interest for complementary research or for technological development, to define relevant criteria to clustering for industrial purposes, clusters suitable for partnership with international humanitarian organisations or for licensing to biotech companies of emergent countries.

Thanks to the information system set up by INRA, a second set of patent clusters was built during the second year with all partners' collaboration and further evaluated. INRA Transfert, INRA and PBL organised a showcase meeting in Paris dedicated to the presentation of the EPIPAGRI patent SI. PBL Consolidated a flyer of EPIPAGRI, which was presented it in numerous meetings. INRA and INRA Transfert have made oral presentations of the EPIPAGRI network and information system in a number of national and international meetings. INRA has made a study on underexploited agricultural IP with the aims to identify IP from EPIPAGRI members that is not being exploited and analyse the reasons for such non-uptake by industry. A focus was made on INRA's patent portfolio in order to identify types of IP not being exploited or taken up by industry, and to analyse the reasons. INRA conducted a survey concerning all the members of EPIPAGRI, their organisation and strategies and organised meetings with a subset of EPIPAGRI's partners in order to have an in-depth knowledge of their organisation.

EPIPAGRI can be accessed through its website http://www.epipagri.org. The database is free for any party to browse the content, as well as to identify and make contact with parties who have contributed IP to the database. Public research organisations (PROs) may join EPIPAGRI for free and add information on their own IP as contributors.

The web-based EPIPAGRI database (please see http://www.epipagri.org online) has the following features. It displays a tool that provides detailed information on agri-biotech IP and enables sophisticated query to compare contributors' IP with other existing IP by searching esp@cenet or Patent Lens and scientific publications through Pubmed. Agri-biotech IPR is categorised according to the type of technology or the type of practical application / use.

The study conducted by INRA with the aims to identify IP from EPIPAGRI members that is not being exploited resulted in a detailed report focused on INRA's owned IP assets in its various fields of activity, which offers a very useful analysis of the obstacles hindering patent transfer to industry. The survey conducted by INRA concerning all the members of EPIPAGRI, their organisation and strategies and the meetings organised with some EPIPAGRI's partners resulted in a report explaining in a transversal way what the global trends in IP and valorisation managements are. It explains and throws light on the impact IP management has on the valorisation of an invention. It gives as well examples on how the EPIPAGRI database can be used to enhance the management of IP and enable transnational predevelopment actions.

One main strength of the EPIPAGRI project was to give members an opportunity to meet and to know each other much better, to experience working together, to share thoughts and comments, to network, to explore the possibilities of patent pooling. This knowledge and insights as such (besides the database) might prove to be very helpful in the future. Members have shown the feasibility for European PROs of joint exploitation of their IP assets.

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