Patent legislation would slow biotechnology innovation


By David J. Kappos and David C. Hoffman in The Mercury News

Congress once again has introduced legislation aimed at curbing abusive patent litigation. While there is wide agreement on the desirability of curtailing frivolous threats and suits, there is another critical issue with our nation’s patent system that seems overlooked, perhaps even lost, in the debate: how to provide incentives for investment in biotechnology innovation in an era when research and development spending by both government and industry is falling.

The investment in a strong patent system as a means to provide incentives for R&D is one that Americans have made willingly for generations, driving innovations in biotechnology that have revolutionized the prevention and treatment of many life-threatening diseases. Unfortunately, our national mindset has shifted. Public funding for research in the life sciences is decreasing, and incentives for innovation are being degraded.

The patent system, the primary incentive that encourages investment in life sciences innovation, has been declared inapplicable to major sectors of life science by the U.S. Supreme Court. Meanwhile, the new legislation pending in Congress, however well-meaning, could further diminish the strength of our nation’s patent system. Indeed, these reforms could quickly make the United States a laggard in life sciences innovation.

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