Invitation to March 26 meeting on Compulsory Licensing

This is a sample invitation that was sent for the meeting.
Consumer Project on Technology
Médecins Sans Frontières
Health Action International

February 11, 1999

Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland
Director- General
World Health Organization
Avenue Appia 20
CH-1211 GENEVA 27
fax (41-22)791-0746

Dear Director - General Brundtland:

This is an invitation to address a meeting on March 26, 1999 in Geneva that is being convened to discuss an initiative that seeks to improve access to AIDS and other essential medicines. In particular, the meeting will address the issue of compulsory licensing of patents on essential medical technologies. The meeting will last all day, and we would be grateful if you could make a presentation to the gathering in the morning, to open the event, or at any time that would be more convenient for you.

The meeting seeks to address aspects of the growing ethical and public health dilemmas associated with access to modern medical discoveries. As we witness new scientific advances in the treatment of disease, we are also confronted with highly disparate levels of access to treatments. Public health experts are concerned about the health consequence of national policies on the protection of intellectual property. Specifically, the meeting will be a dialogue over the appropriate use of national laws permitting compulsory licensing of patents for essential medical technologies.

As you know, although specifically allowed in international agreements on intellectual property, compulsory licensing of patents is a topic of some controversy. The purpose of this meeting is to begin a dialogue among stakeholders on several important factual, legal and ethical questions that will provide a context for policy making.

The specific agenda for the March 26 meeting has not yet been set. However, we expect to organize four panel discussions covering the following topics:

  1. The nature of access problems for essential medicines used to treat AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, meningitis and other illnesses.
  2. The status of international law on compulsory licensing, and the role of international trade agreements in setting international norms of the protection of intellectual property.
  3. Practical issues relating to compulsory licensing, including such issues as methods of determining compensation of patent owners, economies of scale and small markets, procedures and standards set out in Article 31 of the TRIPS and other topics.
  4. Views of stakeholders from the public health field, NGOs, industry, governments and international organizations.

The meeting is being organized by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), Health Action International (HAI) and the Consumer Project on Technology (CPT). We recognize that not all participants in the meeting will share the views of the organizers, and there will be no effort to portray participation in the meeting as an endorsement of any particular view. Indeed, the meeting is intended to be a frank discussion of compulsory licensing, with a range of views expressed. We expect this dialogue to be constructive and important, and to educate participants about important factual and legal matters, and to deepen the participants' understanding of the role of compulsory licensing in our new rapidly changing global economy.

The participation of the World Health Organization is particularly useful and appropriate, given the WHO expertise and mission, and the recent recommendation by the Executive Board of the World Health Assembly regarding the Revised Drug Strategy.

The coordinator for this meeting is Catherine Gavin, who can be reached in the United States at 202.387.8030, fax 202.234.5176, by electronic mail at, or by postal mail at P.O. Box 19367, Washington, DC 20036.


Bas Van der Heide
Health Action International
Tel +31.20.683.3684 Fax +31.20.685.5002,

Dr. Bernard Pécoul
Médecins Sans Frontières
Tel +33(0), Fax +33(0)1,

James Love
Consumer Project on Technology
Tel 202.387.8030, Fax 202.234.5176,

PS: The Consumer Project on Technology has created a web site with background information on compulsory licensing at