Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Biomedical Patents

In a follow-up to this post, I thought it would be worth looking at a piece of the patent system where I don't have major concerns -- namely drug patents.  According to the FDA, a drug patent is good for 20 years after filing. 

This is very much the low end of the intellectual property patent discussion.  Micky Mouse was invented in 1928, so the current duration of protection has been > 85 years.  On the other hand, a 20 year patent would have expired before the end of Walt Disney's life.  Or consider JRR Tolkien who wrote the hobbit in 1937 and the Lord of the Rings in 1954/55.  He died in 1973 -- meaning the Hobbit would have exited protection during his lifespan and the Lord of the Rings would barely have made it. 

Furthermore, the cost of biomedical drug development are huge.  You could imagine replacing this system with research grants, but there is no way to avoid the conclusion that this would immediately be one of the largest items in the Federal budget.  This is not to say that the process could not be improved or streamlined.  But given that we maintain the current cost structure for drug development, these patent lengths look either short or appropriate. 

Or, in other words, different areas have different issues. 

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