Digital Health Revolution: Leveraging Intellectual Property for Equitable Access and Innovation

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Digital Health Revolution: Leveraging Intellectual Property for Equitable Access and Innovation

Digital Health Revolution: Leveraging Intellectual Property for Equitable Access and Innovation

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Digital Health refers to the use of digital technology and data to promote health outcomes, improve the performance of healthcare systems, and empower individuals to make informed decisions about their health and well-being. Digital Health encompasses a wide range of applications, including mobile health apps, wearable devices, telemedicine, electronic health records, and artificial intelligence (AI).


Intellectual property further solidifies the foundation of Digital Health. It not only protects the innovations of scientists and entrepreneurs but also makes it easier for users to access these innovative digital health services. Whether it's an innovative software algorithm for remote patient monitoring or a mobile app offering personalized fitness plans and health tracking services, intellectual property can support the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including Goal 3 "Good Health and Well-being" and Goal 9 "Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure."


While many digital health products may include patentable components such as chemical, electronic, or mechanical elements, protecting technology components can be a significant challenge. In some regions, obtaining patents for data analysis methods can be time-consuming, leading innovators to opt for safeguarding their digital health inventions through trade secrets. This approach not only ensures confidentiality but also adapts to the rapid technological changes and dynamic nature of digital health companies. Additionally, protecting digital health software, databases, or documents can prevent unauthorized use of these valuable assets.


Data is the backbone of Digital Health. Digital healthcare products frequently collect and store patient information, transmitting it to healthcare experts or hospitals. The risks associated with protecting such personal information and privacy are increasing. Intellectual property can protect patient health data, including medical histories and diagnosis results, under various intellectual property legal frameworks. Digital rights management technology plays a crucial role in this regard.


Currently, WIPO is leading discussions among member states and stakeholders on various digital health-related topics, including dialogues on AI and intellectual property policies, such as IP and Forward-Looking Technology Dialogue. These forums aim to address the impact of emerging technologies on all intellectual property policies, thus narrowing the gap in this rapidly developing field.


Efforts to ensure equitable access to digital health also include initiatives like the Open COVID Pledge. This commitment program encourages institutions to provide their patents and copyrights for free during the pandemic, enabling contact tracing apps and other digital health tools to be effectively utilized globally. Moreover, it provides a platform for developers to offer intellectual property, knowledge, and data to ensure more rapid and equitable access to COVID-19 health products, including digital tools, for all of humanity.


Source: Intellectual Property Office