The pharmaceutical industry is one of the evergreen industries in today’s high paced world. Whether an economy is on its most stable behaviour or in recession mode, a person can fall sick any day or might require his supplement pills. Therefore, it won’t be wrong to say that the pharmaceutical industry is a prime source of medical innovation. In a pharmaceutical or biotech company, Intellectual Property (IP) is indeed the most valuable resource, which contributes significantly to the company’s future success. IP is the bedrock on which the advancement of new medications and cures takes place. Without Intellectual Property Protection, researchers might not be able to explore new areas of medical innovation and uncover the discoveries that will prompt the treatments, and cures of tomorrow.
Recent challenges over patents for HIV drugs has reminded the industry that progress is still needed in balancing the opposing forces of innovation through the protection of IP rights, versus the provision of affordable drugs for the developing world. Pharmaceuticals companies must face the daily challenge of creating value through the exploitation of IP rights, but avoiding considerable reputational harm. This situation was well illustrated in South Africa during the late 1990s when the balance between IP protection and the urgent needs of patients were not aligned. Since then, companies have become more aware of the potential damage that can be caused by too strict an interpretation of IP rights. Working in collaboration with national governments, trans-national organisations such as the WHO, and non-governmental organisations such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, pharmaceuticals companies have begun to find ways through the minefield of IP protection in less developed countries, and most now have donation schemes for drugs to treat diseases such as leprosy and HIV.
IPR in the Pharmaceutical Industry
The medical innovations and treatments leading to the discovery of new life-saving drugs must be protected through Intellectual Property Rights (IPR). As the relationship between a consumer and a pharmaceutical product is based entirely on trust, Trademarks help to distinguish and protect the brand on a company and product level. Patents offer pharmaceutical companies with exclusive rights to market their drugs and prevent others from selling, copying, or manufacturing these drugs for 20 years from the date of application. For pharmaceutical companies, IPR is a prerequisite for identifying, planning, commercializing, and protecting the inventions. They also encourage healthy competition, which promotes industrial development and economic growth. Additionally, IPRs provide sufficient incentives to these companies for investing in research and development.
Significance of IPR in the Pharmaceutical Industry
Intellectual Property is essential for the continued innovation of new medicines, and holds utmost importance in the pharmaceutical industry, explained in the points mentioned below:
Protection of Medical Invention
Once a person or a company has designed or developed a new drug or medical treatment, they must protect it either by filing a Patent Application or by keeping it as Trade Secret. However, in the case of trade secrets, a drug can be reverse-engineered, leading to the invention getting stolen, whereas a patent offers much more watertight protection.
Drives Economic Growth and Competitiveness
Intellectual Property leads to the significant economic growth of a pharmaceutical company by awarding the sole intellectual property rights to the inventor of a medication or treatment. All the marketing rights of the invention lie solely with the inventor with further options of even selling or licensing it.
Protection of Consumers and their families
In the pharmaceutical industry, Intellectual Property’s main interest lies in public safety as it helps the consumers in making the right choice while selecting a medical product. Intellectual property rights help in ensuring a standard by assuring quality, which further establishes a reliable and effective public health infrastructure.
Generates Solutions to Global Challenges
Promotion of innovation is essential; however, at the same time, one needs funding to do so. In the pharmaceutical industry, intellectual property rights offer encouragement to develop drugs and vaccines for the new diseases discovered daily. They provide incentives for turning innovative ideas into possible new medications.
Protection against Potential Infringers
Intellectual property rights allow pharmaceutical companies to take strict actions against counterfeit drugs. Without such rights, countries across the globe would have a difficult time in ensuring the safety of their medical inventions.
Pharmaceutical Patents in the Era of COVID-19
COVID-19 patients are frequently constrained to solitary confinement to curb the continuing spread of the contamination. The race for medicine or a vaccine to treat COVID-19 is on. The pharmaceutical industries are being asked to donate the intellectual property (IP) of the relevant medicinal equipment or medicines by officials advocating for public health interests. The WTO’s Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement in contrast is fashioned to sustain the rights of the inventors.
Now the issue is why should they give out the pharmaceutical patents in an unrestricted manner? And it is a reasonable question involving intellectual property rights, assurances fulfilling required quantities, and the nature developing countries’ administrative and economical competence. Many of these countries have not up until now flourished pertinent national standards to mesh cogently with the obligations they owe under TRIPS.
This has still yet to be examined for the treatment of COVID-19 where people are still desperately searching for anything to combat the malignant disease. Leading biotech and pharmaceutical firms are in a scramble to invent and evolve explicit vaccines and drugs. If they succeed and become a holder of the pharmaceutical patent, then they will be financially favoured and their rights will be protected by the TRIPS Agreement. They will have had to endure the struggles and confer the expenditures while other competitors revitalize and take compatible initiatives ultimately favouring society at large. Nonetheless, poor and developing countries often find it troublesome to afford because freshly patented meds attain an exorbitant initial cost. Taking into account the ebb and flow of the COVID-19 pandemic, patent holders will seek to provide their medicinal supplements to aid premier destinations of public interest.
The pharmaceutical industry should make sincere efforts to manage their IP Rights rather than just acquiring them from the national or regional IP Offices. It is a matter of fact that yes; Patent and Trademark Rights are not of much worth unless they are adequately exploited. Enterprises in the pharmaceutical industry should extract full value from their IP assets and medical inventions by taking adequate steps to develop an IP strategy for dealing with possible infringers. Therefore, enforcement of IP Rights is crucial to ensure that their intellectual property is respected in the marketplace.