Most people will never own a patent or be party to an infringement action, but patents are an integral part of our society and affect almost every aspect of our lives. The purpose of the patent system is to promote innovation while still providing incentives to parties for disclosing their inventions to the world. In exchange for disclosing their invention, inventors are given a 20-year monopoly during which time other parties can be prevented from using the invention and may be liable for infringement. This also means that during that time, the price of patented products (or medicine) is likely to be higher.
I’ll give you an example related to the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision where it invalidated the patent covering the drug VIAGRA in 2013. While I understand that the invalidity of this particular patent does not affect everyone, it is clear that under similar circumstances for different drugs or other inventions the effect could be widely felt by many. Maybe it is simply because I had read the decision or because it was directly related to my profession but after the Supreme Court made their ruling I immediately began hearing radio commercials for VIAGRA that indicated a new lower price for the original product. The reason this was done was that there was no longer a monopoly on the product. Now generic drug companies can make the exact same drug without having to worry about infringement lawsuits. Consider the effects this could have on you or people you know who are currently taking name-brand drugs for various ailments? Once patent lapses, the prices of drugs tend to drop. Think about the products you have seen that have been patented.
While at first glance you may wonder what the benefit is to you for the 20 years the patent is in force and you are required to pay more for your products, think of the leaps in progress we have made. What if there was no patent system and instead inventors simply attempted to keep their ideas secret so nobody could steal them. Do you think we would still have seen the same technological advancements? It’s called quid pro quo (or something for something) and it’s what allows our patent system to work.
Lorraine Prowse – Patent and Trademark Agent
Information on this website is for informational purposes only. It is not, and should not be taken as, legal advice. You should not rely on or take any action based upon this information. This website should not be used as a substitute for professional legal advice. Prowse Chowne LLP professionals would be pleased to advise you.