The biotechnology field has grown in the last years together with an increase in the number of patent applications granted relating to biotechnological inventions, which exceeds the average rate of other types of patents. According to OECD, the number of biotechnology patents granted increased by 15% annually between 1990 and 2000 in the Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and 10.5% in the European Patent Office (EPO), against the increase of 5% per annum of the other patents. The increase in the number of biotechnology patents is largely due to the importance attached to intellectual property, especially patents, companies operating in the field of life sciences and biotechnology.
The issue here is, are biotechnology patents good or bad for the country’s development? What about that limited number of companies that own most of the biotechnological patents? Does a patent monopoly help the society to obtain the medical or technical support to grow?
On the one hand, patents are only have a period of 20 years exclusivity because after that period everyone can use it freely. Then that monopoly only lasts for those years, just like it happens with generic medication. Maybe 20 years are too many to be able to really take advantage of it but if we take into account that since the patent is registered all the details and tools and processes are described within the patent and publicly displayed for everyone and maybe those 20 years could be invested by someone to be able to enhance and improve the processes registered in that patent avoiding the first steps already taken by the first inventor.
On the other hand, just like we said, after those 20 years anyone could copy those products saving all the money and time invested in that research and that is how the “favor” could be returned to the society. Some may think that keeps the balance in this patent system and some may think 20 years is a long period of time specially if we talk about medical innovation when a day could be of vital importance for many people.
Information obained by the WIPO web page on Biotechnology patents