[author: Antoinette F. Konski]

One argument often cited against patenting is that multiple patents can cover one product, its preparation and use, creating a so-called “patent thicket” that must be unwound like a bowl of spaghetti before a new technology is free of potential liability. Cooperation and collaboration among patent holders in the form of a patent pool is one means to provide a one-stop-shop for coordination and management of patented technology. A patent pool is an agreement among patent holders to provide access to patented technologies based on an agreed-upon fee structure. Patent pools have been used in high technology and other fields but typically not in technologies supporting health care.

The National Institutes for Health announced the formation of a patent pool to provide a one-stop shop for worldwide access to diagnostic discoveries for personalized medicine. The pool is managed by MPEG LA and available under the name “the Librassay.” MPEG LA promotes the Librassay as a landmark collaboration among the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other leading health care innovators, such as Johns Hopkins University, the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Partners HealthCare, The Board of Trustees of the Leland Stanford Junior University, The Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania and the University of California, San Francisco.

This and similar collaborations are supportive of the advancement of personalized medicine and underlying technologies. For example, simplified and coordinated access to numerous patented technologies would support whole genome sequencing, which sequences and identifies numerous genetic markers simultaneously.