Survey results released last June showed that voters rate finding cures to serious diseases such as cancer, Parkinson’s and HIV/AIDs second in importance only to improving the economy and ahead of combating terrorism, reducing the federal deficit and addressing illegal immigration.
Yet the best way to support the research necessary for those kinds of breakthroughs is controversial.
Some say that patenting IP that could help cure major illness and disease limits research by limiting knowledge sharing; but without the ability to patent discoveries and inventions, biotech companies lose the ability to earn back the monetary investment it takes to discover that information.
Biotech Intellectual Property Rights Go To The US Supreme Court
The US Supreme Court will rule in June 2013 on exactly this issue in Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics (AMP vs. Myriad), which questions biotech companies such as Myriad’s legal right to patent what is essentially a part of the human body.
Should the US Supreme Court rule against Myriad, its patent for the BRACAnalysis test—which helps detect breast and ovarian cancer and which accounted for 81.7% of its revenue in 2012—will be called into question. This will undoubtedly lead to decreased future research (due to decreased funds) and job loss.
Securing Biotech Intellectual Property
It’s important that biotech companies continue to follow best practices for protecting existing IP while awaiting this monumental decision. Often employees can be poorly educated about what company IP disclosure policies are and how they are expected to behave should a discovery be made.
Those IP protection best practices include:
1. Having new employees sign invention disclosure agreements—and then educating them on the processes the company expects them to follow should an invention or discovery be made. All too often companies require employees to sign such paperwork but never explain what it means.
2. Utilize a reward system, such as those in place at companies like IBM and Hewlett-Packard. These companies offer bonuses to employees who file invention disclosure paperwork. Alternatively, some companies offer a percentage of any profits based on such a discovery.
3. Ensure that until such information is patented or published (which prevents others from claiming a patent on it) that it is kept secure, such as by storing it in a virtual data room.