Top 10 Controversial Issues In Biotech Patenting

1. Patents Inhibit Innovation

Do the monopolies provided by patents hinder research? The answer may vary in different technology areas, but in biotech they seem to be important to attract investment money. Whilst patents may deter research in particular areas, they are clearly an important part of the capitalist economic system without any real alternative.

2. Patenting Life, Nature And Parts Of Human Beings

Should nature or human genes be patentable?  Don’t these belong to everyone? Why should someone else have a monopoly that covers my DNA, just because it is converted to an ‘isolated’ form?

3. Broad Claims On Biotech Cases

Having worked on many biotech cases I would agree with the fact that broad claims are often pursued and granted.  However that is simply due to the nature of the subject matter and difficult to avoid.

4. Health Care Costs

Patents on medicines increases healthcare costs which are presently increasing to unsustainable levels.  Whilst government authorities are probably becoming wiser in decision on what drugs to purchase, compulsory licensing is never mentioned in the developed world.

5. Research Stifled In The Developing World

Foreign investment and technology needs to be protected in the developing world, but not at the expense of growing their own research capability.

6. Biopiracy

The natural resources of the developing world belong to the relevant country.

7. Patent Office Backlogs

Performing a freedom to operate search for a biotech invention often makes one realise how many unexamined patent applications there are out there.  How given the length of time it takes to develop biotech products patent office backlogs are probably an advantage for the biotech sector.

8. Evergreening

Evergreening refers to obtaining further patent term for an invention by filing new patents which protect the original invention.  For example protection for cancer drugs can sometimes be extended by filing on the specific formulation which is used in administration.

9. Patents Are Expensive To Obtain And Enforce

This is undoubtedly true and thus the big players are at an advantage.

10. Patents Are Anticompetitive

Companies have portfolios providing multiple layers of patent protection for key products (patent thickets).  This is a commercial strategy which contributes little to innovation.  Also weak patent applications are filed for commercial reasons, and again these contribute little to innovation.

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