While the American public’s and the media’s attention has been focused on the seemingly endless cycle of political dramas that unfold every day – What has Russian President Vladimir Put got in store for Ukraine? How many people have signed up for Obamacare? Is Syrian President Bashar al-Assad turning over his chemical weapons? – there is a battle going on that currently receives far too little attention: patent protection.
Last month, the US Chamber of Commerce called on the government to ratchet up pressure on India over intellectual property rights to help prevent Indian companies from producing cheaper, generic versions of medicines that are still under patent protection.
The Chamber of Commerce requested that India be classified as a Priority Foreign Country, the title given to countries that are the worst offenders in terms of protecting intellectual property.
The perspective from India is that many patented drugs are too costly for most of its people. The government in New Delhi is pushing to increase access to life-saving treatments in a country where only 15 percent of 1.2 billion people have health insurance.
But these figures, though stark and representative of larger issues, do not justify allowing countries to violate intellectual property laws.
According to the National Association of Manufacturers, “India’s egregious acts, policies and practices, as well as its failure to enter into good faith negotiations to address them, support such a designation.”
Other trade groups have also requested that Canada be placed on the priority watch list. Canada has been one of the only industrialized countries not to provide any form of patent term restoration to compensate for patent life lost due to delays in the approval process.
It is critical that the US Government engage in these markets to resolve policies that undermine American innovation, and the development of new medicines in the US and around the world.
American legislators and citizens alike recognize the importance of this issue. We all know that if America is going to remain competitive, we need to ensure that our hard work and innovation is not stolen to our detriment.
It follows that we must protect the incentives that drive researchers, and the companies that support them, to continue in their pursuit of life saving advancements in healthcare.
Protecting intellectual property is good for America. We’re always complaining that America is lagging behind, that we’re giving up opportunities, that we’re not the giant we once were.
And while these complaints surely have merit, we have an opportunity here to do something that goes a long way to growing our economy.
The pharmaceutical industry employs up to 30% of the US workforce. Protecting intellectual property is protecting that 30%, keeping them employed and boosting our flagging economy.
American innovation is the bedrock of our nation. It is our duty to protect it.