Why IP Matters

Discovery is a game of trial and error. It took Thomas Edison more than a year to create the first commercially viable light bulb. Alexander Graham Bell worked for 4 years before his voice was heard on the other end of a telephone line. Grace Hopper and her colleagues spent 5 years perfecting the Mark I, the world’s first computer. Over history, the men and women whose names we still recall today – Tesla, da Vinci, Gutenberg– have shared a common motto: “If at first you don’t succeed…”.

Well, you know the rest. If they had not accepted their failures as moments of learning, our collective progress in science, technology and even the arts, would be stuck in neutral.

The same goes for medicine. Just like Edison and Graham Bell, it took Louis Pasteur years of experiments to further our understanding of germ theory. Marie Curie spent a career pioneering the use of radiology in medicine.

Discoveries like these have revolutionised our world and saved thousands, if not millions, of lives. These creations don’t just electrify, interconnect or mechanise our global society - they keep it safe. If we want to see this progress continue well into the 21st century and beyond, we need to encourage the great minds of our time to test the limits of medical possibilities, even if that means coming up empty-handed more often than not. This is where protecting intellectual property (IP) plays a vital role. I can’t think of a better opportunity to discuss the importance of IP than today, on World IP Day.

When researchers discover a new medicine, they submit product details to regulatory agencies to prove its safety and effectiveness. In order to protect these discoveries, many countries enforce a standard period of data exclusivity, which keeps key information proprietary for a certain length of time. This way, scientists can recoup some of the time and capital they’ve invested into the R&D process and maintain a degree of competitive advantage. It’s this sense of competition that often spurs the greatest of discoveries, and we should be doing our part to foster it.

Most countries have lower periods of data exclusivity than the U.S. and the EU. New trade agreements, like the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), can enshrine the high standards that exist across the Atlantic. We have urged American and European policymakers to align regulatory processes without compromising safety, while enshrining current data exclusivity provisions in order to further enhance the EU and U.S. global competitive advantage in life sciences. Simplifying and harmonizing regulatory processes serves as an important step in expanding the life science industry to a truly global scale and ensuring patients worldwide get faster access to the medicines they need.

This, I believe, is something we can all agree we need, and I believe it’s something that TTIP can deliver. Encouraging and enabling pharmaceutical companies to broaden their reach will do wonders for the health care of patients everywhere – and we can make it happen by ensuring robust and comparable data exclusivity beyond our own borders.

True innovation comes with risks. True innovators understand those risks. With the right policies in place, TTIP can support them and incentivize their efforts toward developing new, groundbreaking medicines that will help patients around the world. And that’s why IP matters.