Policy - Intellectual Property

The Importance of Intellectual Property

September 1, 2015

Strong intellectual property (IP) protections enable biopharmaceutical companies to undertake ground-breaking biomedical discovery and innovation that ultimately translates into new treatments for patients around the world.  Biogen supports a legal framework that ensures predictable and strong IP protection for innovators, including patents and regulatory data protection. For many life-saving therapies, only a handful of patents protect billion dollar investments that can take years to develop and will benefit patients for decades to come. As U.S. policy makers consider changes to patent laws, they should ensure that such changes continue to promote innovation and investment in biomedical research. 

The drug development and regulatory approval process is long, complex, high-risk, and capital-intensive. The availability of IP protection allows innovative companies to raise the required capital to sufficiently fund the discovery of next generation technologies.  At Biogen, IP protection allows us to move forward in the development of therapies for devastating conditions such as multiple sclerosis, hemophilia, and Alzheimer’s disease. These are high-risk undertakings, and in our industry, most fail.  But the promise of IP protection encourages us to take these risks.

As U.S. legislators contemplate changes to laws governing intellectual property protection, Biogen believes that it is essential to both protect legitimate patent rights and address abusive practices.  We acknowledge that “patent trolls,” who use patents as economic weapons rather than leveraging them in the creation of new products, are abusing the system.  However, any legislative efforts should be narrowly tailored to address the specific issue of patent abuse, rather than making expansive changes at the expense of innovators.  

Another growing concern for innovators is the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s inter partes review (IPR) process.  The IPR process was originally intended to serve as an alternative to expensive federal court patent litigation but instead has become an additional tool to seek the invalidation of patents in multiple jurisdictions, often simultaneously.  The implementation of IPR puts innovators at a disadvantage because the process has more lenient legal standards than district courts and permits challenges from parties who have no interest whatsoever in the patent or the technology it claims.  Attempts to reform our patent system must address these growing concerns regarding IPR to provide innovators certainty around their intellectual property rights, fair and effective incentives to invest, and a legal framework that supports innovative developments.

IP is a critical component of innovation in the biopharmaceutical industry. Biogen supports legislative action in the US that helps protect innovators and fuels continued innovation to discover and develop much-needed treatments for patients.   

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