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5 Reasons why biopharmaceutical patents are different

Mark Grayson   |     September 10, 2015   |   SHARE THIS

Intellectual property protection has deep, historical roots in the United States.  Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution expressly recognizes the role of patents to “promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts.”  It was under this Constitutional authority that the Congress enacted the basic Patent Act of 1793, authored by Thomas Jefferson.  A half-century later, Abraham Lincoln said patents add “the fuel of interest to the fire of genius.”

Since the founding of our country, legal protection for innovation and creativity has been the key to critical advances in science, technology and arts that have generated economic growth, benefited society and improved the quality of life for all Americans.

In medicine, it is the patent system that fulfills the promise of breakthroughs in treatments and cures for AIDS, tuberculosis and scores of debilitating or life-threatening illnesses around the world.

Patents are the “lifeblood” of the pharmaceutical industry. And they are not like the patents in other industries. Here are five reasons how:  

  1. Medicines are usually protected by just a handful of patents. In contrast, other products -- such as smart phones – are typically protected by hundreds of patents.
  2. For biopharmaceuticals, the effective patent life is 12 years. In other industries, it is about 17 years.
  3. The biopharmaceutical industry requires twice the level of investment per patent than the automotive industry, the next highest industry.
  4. The research and development of new medicines can take more than a decade. Some products in other industries have a nine month or less development cycle and do not require regulatory approval.
  5. Most of the R&D active biopharmaceutical companies indicated that patents are “very” or “somewhat” important to the sector. Only 4% of companies in other industries viewed patents as “very” or “somewhat” important to their business..

 To learn more about how biopharmaceutical patents are different, check out our new infographic here:

Mark Grayson

Mark Grayson Mark Grayson is a former deputy vice president of public affairs at PhRMA focusing on intellectual property, trade and international issues.

Topics: Patents, Intellectual Property

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