Expert Zone

Straight from the Specialists

The battle for patent protection


(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily of Reuters)

The Supreme Court verdict on Glivec brought to an end the battle by Swiss drugmaker Novartis to exclusively market the cancer medicine. In doing so, the bench enunciated a principle to justify a patent only by its intrinsic worth of innovation.

The exclusive marketing right for Glivec was granted in 2003 for a period of five years. Once a drug is off-patent, the product/process can be freely copied. But many companies try to extend the life of the patent further by making marginal changes which are not relevant to the product’s effectiveness. To what extent these devious changes amount to innovation becomes a matter of judgment.

The Supreme Court verdict focuses on this issue. It is certainly not against protection to innovation. But insignificant changes to a product which do not enhance its therapeutic efficacy do not make it a new invention. There is no ‘novelty’ in the change, the court said, and no new substances are used in the drug.

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