BIO Releases Consultant Report Promoting IP Rights

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At its annual meeting this week in Boston, the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), put its name to a report promoting the advantages of intellectual property rights for the industry.

The report, “Taking Stock: How Global Biotechnology Benefits from Intellectual Property Rights [pdf],” was prepared by consultant Meir Pugatch, an IP rights proponent. It was commissioned by BIO.

In a release, BIO said the report found that:

* Intellectual property rights, especially patents, are actively facilitating and contributing to upstream and downstream biotechnology activities in both developed and developing countries.
* Not only mature economies but also major emerging economies are making growing use of the patent system to facilitate biotechnology research and commercialization.
* Accordingly, biotechnology alliances for research and technology transfer have increased markedly since the early 1990s.
* Case study analysis suggests that strengthening intellectual property rights and introducing technology transfer frameworks based on intellectual property rights in combination with other reforms can have a positive and sustained impact on innovation, economic development and growth, biopharmaceutical research and development, and access to biotech products in emerging economies.

“This report is further proof of the positive impact of intellectual property rights in both established and emerging economies, and will be a useful tool as we work with the many countries seeking to grow the biotechnology industry,” Joseph Damond, BIO senior vice president of international affairs, said in a release. “We felt it was important to provide empirical evidence and case studies for a more informed discussion on the role of intellectual property in global economic development and in commercializing innovative products for patients and other consumers.”

The report takes a critical view of developing countries’ use of IP flexibilities (like compulsory licences for public health reasons) permitted under international trade rules. It also appears to support the position that more patents are a ready measure of positive economic activity.

The conclusion that IP rights can benefit innovation is not new, and in fact, is the very intent behind the monopoly rights, along with providing a benefit to society.

BIO may have been hoping to tamp down some of the negative chatter among companies in recent years that have run into barriers arising from the large number of patents in the field (for instance, patent thickets). For example, see the industry executives quoted in: “Biotech Marathon: Vaccines And Open Innovation, But Less IP?Intellectual Property Watch, 16 February 2010.

What is possibly more surprising than the report’s conclusion is that the magazine Nature published a news story about it that overlooks the complexity of the balance between providing protection of, and access to, ideas. The Nature story is here.

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