Intellectual Property as the Foundation of Innovation - Pharmaceutical Technology

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Intellectual Property as the Foundation of Innovation
Supportive public policy is needed in order for innovation to flourish.


Pharmaceutical Technology
Volume 34, Issue 12, pp. 61, 62

The last finding is hardly surprising considering that the vast majority of BIO companies do not yet have a product on the market. These small companies need strong patent protection and at least partially exclusive rights to attract the funding they require for further R&D.

The link between research universities, innovative companies, and strong patents cannot be overestimated in biotechnology. Many emerging countries around the world recognize this link and have changed or are in the process of changing their patent laws to better spur innovation.

In its study of the biotechnology industry in September 2006, the Milken Institute found a direct correlation between the nation's lead in biotechnology and the success of American universities in patenting and licensing inventions made with federal funding. The report, Mind to Market: A Global Analysis of University Biotechnology Transfer and Commercialization, found that US universities dominated their peers abroad in biotechnology research and resulting impacts. It warned that other countries would adopt our model to better compete against us, as is already happening.

China and Japan have implemented their own Bayh–Dole-like laws. South Africa and Russia have followed suit. India's parliament is reviewing a version of the Bayh–Dole law. Such competition benefits innovation around the world.

However, a small but determined band of theorists in the US and abroad is waging an ideological campaign against IP rights and strong technology-transfer systems. They want to give government greater rights over inventions and limit patents and licensing rights. If history is any indication, this is precisely what we should not do.

Instead, we must renew our commitment to funding cutting-edge research in our universities and federal laboratories, and strengthen our technology-transfer system. We must fully support our patent offices, which are overwhelmed in trying to effectively process patent applications that may contain the breakthrough discoveries needed to drive our economies forward. And we must promote public policies that incentivize and protect innovation. It is providing this type of support—rather than trying to manage innovation—that is the appropriate role for government.

If we preserve our traditional foundations of innovation and maintain the basics of strong IP protection, there is no reason why we can't overcome our pressing global challenges, as humankind's ingenuity and creativity, unleashed, have done so many times before.

James C. Greenwood is president and CEO of the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) in Washington, DC, tel. 202.962.9200,


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