By Karina Daiha and Julian Cornelius

In November, the Brazilian Patent Office (INPI) released a new study on the categorization of biotechnology patent documents based on international patent classification, also presenting an analysis of the patent filing in this sector in Brazil between 2012 and 2016.

The study compared concepts of biotechnology based on the International Patent Classification (IPC) codes suggested by World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). It proposed a new group of classifications, including areas of biotechnology that had not previously been covered.

In the study, biotechnology is categorized into 12 areas (figure 1), making it possible to search biotechnology patent documents in a more comprehensive manner. Based on these classifications, the study analyzed patent documents related to biotechnology filed at the INPI in recent years and presented an overview of the characteristics of Brazilian patents in this area. The largest group, comprising 26% of the 1,857 retrieved documents, is related to “microorganisms, enzymes and their compositions. However, as explained by the INPI, this group is generally associated with another area. Emphasis is given to the second largest group, in which most of the “medicaments” are related to “medical preparations containing peptides or antibodies”.

Figure 1: distribution of the 1,857 documents found in the searches into 12 biotech areas (a document may be included in one or more group, depending on the IPCs).

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Upon analyzing the priority of these documents, it was noted that 955 had been first filed in Brazil, followed by Canada (649), United States (602), South Korea (435), the European Patent Office (213), Australia (133), China (99) and Japan (71).

A closer look at these 955 documents provides an insight into the biotechnology being developed in Brazil. While patent documents classified in the group “environment” are only in 8th position in figure 1 above, these rank in 4th position in the sub-group of documents first filed in Brazil.

Another interesting result of INPI’s study concerns the applicants of biotech patent applications filed in Brazil. Among the 20 main applicants, 11 are Brazilian universities. Furthermore, 555 out of the 1,857 documents – i.e., around 30% – have a Brazilian or Foreign university among the applicants.

The conclusions of this study suggest that several International Patent Classifications that are not usually used in studies on biotechnology patenting should be considered in future work, because they enable the retrieval of patent documents that would otherwise not be found, especially in relation to technologies applied in areas of environment, food, health, agriculture and nanotechnology.

The debate about the conditions for development and patent protection of biotechnology has grown in Brazil over the last few years. Although the country has some of the largest areas of biodiversity on the planet, the use and transformation of such natural assets for the generation of wealth can be considered modest compared to the national potential.