Patents



The Indian government’s patent laws have been put on trial. Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis has accused the government of failing to comply with World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules after it refused to grant the company a patent on its cancer drug Glivec.

India signed up to the WTO’s Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (Trips) patent regime when it joined the WTO in 1995. As a developing country, it was granted a transition period of 10 years to bring its laws in line with Trips. Novartis now claims that the failure to acknowledge Glivec as an innovative drug means that India is operating outside these regulations. The Indian government rejects the claim, arguing that Glivec is an existing drug with only a minor alteration.

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Where do you stand on the debate?

Patents are a menace, according to Terence Kealey, clinical biochemist and vice-chancellor at the University of Buckingham, UK.

‘Inventors claim they need patents to incentivise their research but, today, it is the company that fails to innovate that goes bust,’ says Kealey.

But patents protect inventions by giving the owner of the patent the right to stop anyone from making or using the invention without the owner’s permission, says Barry Treves, president of the Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys, UK.

‘In today’s liberal and free market economies it’s not just industrialists and governments who recognise the importance of a sound and enforceable patent system; increasingly the academic world is coming to realise that patents and the licence revenues that can flow from them are making an essential contribution to university research and to economic growth,’ says Treves.

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