At the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, we believe in the transformative power of innovation. We are constantly pushing ourselves and our partners for new solutions to improve global health, to alleviate hunger and poverty in the developing world, and to improve access to quality education. By working together to apply creative thinking to enormous challenges, we believe that we all can fix some of the world’s toughest problems.
Innovative solutions to these problems often come in the form of new technology. But none of these innovations will make any difference in the lives of the people who need those vaccines, those seeds, those toilets, unless these innovative products actually reach them. So our ultimate objective is to make sure that the people we are trying to reach actually receive the innovative products that our partners are developing. This is part of a concept developed by the foundation called "Global Access."
Specifically, Global Access means that knowledge and information generated by our projects will be promptly and broadly disseminated and that the developments created will be delivered at an affordable price to the people who need them most.
To ensure that access, we adopt a comprehensive approach that spans the full product development life
cycle, from discovery through to delivery. We challenge partners to formulate sustainable strategies for
ensuring that the product reaches our target beneficiary markets while taking advantage of profits that
may be generated in other markets. An important part of these strategies is the management of any Intellectual
Property that arises from the work we fund. Such strategies allow for IP protection when it is
demonstrated that it will support and sustain the foundation's Global
In the end, we want to make sure that the products developed with our funding actually enter the markets we serve - the charitable markets - and is of real and meaningful benefit to those populations. For us, that's where the real results lie.
This training is intended to help you understand the role of Intellectual Property rights in the foundation’s approach to achieving Global Access.
Global Access is a creative concept we came up with in 2003 that requires our grantees and partners to commit to making the products and information generated by foundation funding widely available at an affordable price, in sufficient volume, at a level of quality, and in a time frame that benefits the people we're trying to help. What role does Intellectual Property play in the foundation's approach to furthering Global Access? Intellectual Property provides a great opportunity to think creatively and strategically about how we can reach our ultimate beneficiaries. The careful and deliberate management of IP (patents, copyrights, trademarks, trade secrets, and rights in data) and the associated rights created or accessed through foundation-funded projects, is a critical component to achieving Global Access. Global Access commitments also apply to collaborations with for-profit entities. Whether it is a groundbreaking diagnostic tool or a new toilet that does not require a sewer connection or electricity, they are allowed to sell what they develop with foundation funding at a profit in the developed world, as long as the products are made available to the people who need them most.
In the spirit of establishing attainable and meaningful goals, the foundation strives to right size Global Access obligations for each of our partners. Global Access obligations are specific to each project, depending on a number of factors, including foundation goals and needs, project duration, engagement model (i.e., grant, contract or program-related investment), partner alignment, complexity and scope of project, stage, presence and nature of Background IP or Background Third Party IP involved, future use of Funded IP, and the structure and experience of the partners involved.
Although Global Access is specific as to its outcomes, it is flexible in its approach. The range of Global Access obligations may include a basic Global Access clause, the foundation taking a non-exclusive license to the Funded IP, or a requirement that the partner satisfy certain specific Global Access milestones. Such milestones may consist of establishing certain agreements among project partners, acquiring the IP license rights to particular technology necessary to successfully conduct the project and develop a product, or developing a project-specific "Global Access Strategy."
In general, the IP piece of a Global Access Strategy addresses:
In this way, the foundation relies on our partners to develop creative solutions, not just in terms of the
technology solution that may be needed. We also challenge partners to formulate sustainable strategies for
ensuring that the product reaches our target beneficiary markets. For the sustainability of the project,
we encourage partners to consider IP assets arising from the foundation-funded project in terms of how
they might create incentives for all the parties along the value chain.
The foundation also takes a pragmatic approach to the management of IP Rights. Effective management of IP to achieve Global Access still allows for commercial opportunities and formation of unique and powerful collaborations.
Partnerships and collaborations are a critical element of the foundation's strategy because we believe in
their power to expand the reach and depth of our work. We seek collaborative partnerships with those that
have the tools and infrastructure to bring about the changes that will enable all people to live healthy
and productive lives. Partnerships enable us to draw on the unique talents, resources, and know-how of
industry, academia, and the public sector to better serve our intended beneficiaries.
IP Rights are often seen as an insurmountable obstacle to a collaboration or partnership. However, when structured from the beginning with the guiding principles of Global Access, the perceived barriers raised by IP Rights are lowered, allowing for unique partnerships that can immensely benefit the charitable markets that the foundation seeks to serve.
We recognize that many of our investments will result in new technologies, and that these technologies may
well have applications for wealthy as well as poor markets. Since our grant-making model provides for our
grantee partners to typically own the results, we want to talk candidly about how a grantee partner will
manage these potential IP assets to achieve project-specific objectives and to advance the foundation’s
An "incidental private benefit" that might result from the commercial application of these dual market applications is fine, as long as the charitable purpose of the project remains the central focus and top priority for all partners. We also recognize that free market forces will not take care of our target beneficiaries. In fact, that’s precisely why we’re doing what we do at the foundation: intervening where the market is not reaching the poorest people in the world.
When strategically managed, new IP means we have new opportunities to assure products and solutions will reach our target beneficiaries in poor or charitable markets.
Fundamentally, we respect our partners’ and others’ IP Rights. We ask our partners to be aware of the IP Rights of third parties, working with them to gain the access needed to make sure that the results of foundation-funded projects can be developed for our charitable markets without encumbrances.
Click here to view a sample of the IP report that you will fill out through the portal.
The foundation must have a clear understanding of the IP Rights that are expected to arise as a result of our funding and how our partners plan to manage such IP Rights to achieve Global Access. Availability of information regarding IP Rights allows the foundation to:
Because appropriate IP management is an essential component to achieving Global
Access, we designed the Global Access Portal to facilitate communication with our partners
about relevant IP
Rights and related agreements with the foundation.
The Global Access Portal provides a framework and location for sharing required IP-related information between the foundation and a partner in the form of an IP Report. It provides a collaborative, secure location, specific to each investment, for the foundation and an investment partner (e.g. a grantee or a vendor) to share information in order to think creatively and strategically about how best to reach our intended beneficiaries. The transparency enabled by the Global Access Portal and IP Reports helps us to work together to make sure that the intended products will be accessible and affordable in the markets that serve our intended beneficiaries.
To these ends, the Global Access Portal was designed to be:
An IP Report collects information on three main topics:
An IP Report is designed to assist you to perform the following:
The foundation is results-oriented. At the end of all the work we do, we want to make sure that the developed product comes into the markets we serve - the charitable markets - and is of real and meaningful benefit to those populations. Generating IP is not the goal of Global Access, but where IP is generated, we want to see it leveraged as a strategic tool for achieving Global Access. The diligent management of IP can help maximize impact by:
The Global Access Portal helps us and our partners ensure no matter what role IP may play, with all the investments we make, IP is managed to achieve Global Access.