Why We Protect Inventions

The Indian Supreme Court has rejected the idea of patent protection for Novartis’ drug Glivec, saying that an active ingredient in Glivec was well-known prior to the development of the drug.  Those worthies also rejected Novartis’ argument that the innovation that deserved patent protection was their transformation of that active ingredient into a “beta crystal” form, which made it a viable treatment for cancer.

Never mind, said the Court, India doesn’t feel like patenting this and making it harder for an Indian company to profit from the foreign Novartis’ work.

Novartis isn’t alone in this strait.

India’s patent office last year ordered Germany’s Bayer AG to issue a license allowing an Indian generics company to copy its patented cancer drug Nexavar and market it at one-thirtieth the cost.


In November, India’s government approved caps on a third of the country’s drugs, up from 18% under a previous regime—a level of price control not seen since the 1970s.

Novartis had this on the wisdom of further investment in India:

If innovation is rewarded, there is clear business case to move forward.  If it isn’t rewarded and protected, there isn’t.


We’ll continue to build our business, but we will certainly be cautious in investments in R&D and innovation in India.  And until the climate for intellectual property and the ecosystem is fully in place, I don’t think any investment in R&D will take place here.

Well, NSS.  It’s time for the Indian government to figure this out, too.

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