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International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations

  • Patent protection encourages researchers to take risks to develop new products and new therapies
  • Patent protection strikes the right balance between inventor’s legitimate concerns about compensation and society’s need for more scientific development


Before the establishment of a modern patent system, inventions were usually kept as trade secrets which were passed on from generation to generation, and which sometimes were lost. Society, having no knowledge of the secret aspects of the invention, was deprived of the valuable basis to stimulate further innovation and economic development. Knowledge was not disseminated for society’s benefit.

In contrast, patent systems require an inventor to share the knowledge behind the invention in order to obtain an intellectual property right . Today, inventors aim at patenting, thus disclosing inventions to the public and translating the invention into the language of many countries throughout the world. The inventor receives protection against imitation for a limited period of time, and accepts that after patent expiration, the invention moves into the public domain and can be freely used by anyone. Patents protect inventors by granting them the right to retain exclusive marketing ownership of their invention for a limited period, which is typically 20 years from filing. This protection allows investments in manufacturing and development of new technologies since patents give investors security and allows them the opportunity to recoup their expenditures.

In modern society, competition is essential to progress, and the patent system considers immediate copying of invention to be unfair. Immediate copying is unfair because it encourages individuals to wait until others invent, and then to freely copy the invention without any effort and investment. Without patents, there is no incentive to engage in inventive activities.

The patent system plays the role of market regulator and progress stimulator. The research-based pharmaceutical industry relies heavily on patent protection to sustain its development of new medicines. The benefits of patent protection for pharmaceuticals, including vaccines, have a strong track record, with over 90% or today’s prescription medicines and vaccines being the result of industry research, which would not have been made without the incentives of market exclusivity offered by patent protection.

The patent system rewards innovation by giving limited market exclusivity to inventors who choose to disclose their technology. It is a fundamental part of the pharmaceutical industry’s innovation model.