Fernando Becerril Orta
Senior Partner
Becerril, Coca y Becerril
Expert Contributor

Role of IP in the Development of Sustainable Life Sciences R&D

By Fernando Becerril | Mon, 05/17/2021 - 13:31

In this world in which technological development has become one of the big drivers generating benefits for society, intellectual property (IP) plays a fundamental role. On the one hand, it guarantees the legitimate ownership of a technological development to the people who have been involved in the creation of such technology with the consequent obtention of a novel product, process or method that improves the conditions of the state of the art up to that moment. On the other hand, it also guarantees that this generated knowledge can be used by other innovative groups to generate new technologies. As such, intellectual property is one of the great promoters of technological development.

We must understand intellectual property as a group of legal tools that allow inventors or creators to acknowledge the ownership of their own inventions, consequently granting them rights so that they can use, exploit, commercialize or license these technologies.

It is increasingly common to find interdisciplinary groups that work together, making use of existing developments and especially of their own creative capacities, to develop products or new ways of doing things that solve an existing problem in a determined technological field.

Today, more than ever, we can evaluate what enthusiasm, vision for the future, creativity and knowledge can achieve when they are committed to improving the conditions of the population. A few months have passed in which we have managed to obtain a vaccine that allows us to see the light at the end of the tunnel from the health crisis that we have all experienced.

In view of the above, it is impossible to believe that all this existing infrastructure, both in the technological development environment and from the point of view of legal tools, does not have a direct impact on what is called life sciences. When we talk about patents at a global level, it is quite commonly mentioned that clearly, one of the great players in the industrial property environment on a global basis is the pharmaceutical industry. This industrial sector is one of the great promoters, on the one side, of the use of technology to generate new products or technologically innovative processes that naturally generate improvements in the living conditions of the population and, on the other side, in the exhaustive use of all legal tools that guarantees to R&D entities (companies, individuals, universities, research centers, governments, etc.), the consequent adequate exploitation of their technological developments.

Simply by way of reference, the number of industries related to life sciences that protect their developments through industrial property rights is notable. Just to exemplify, from 2016 to 2019, the European Patent Office (EPO) reported a sustained annual increase of patent applications in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology fields, representing a cumulative growth of over 23 percent, not to mention the increase during the last months of inventions related to masks, protective devices, lung ventilators, artificial respirators, valves, and of a surprising number of products related to the extraordinary health crisis.

The only thing we can conclude from the analysis of the figures related to patent, industrial design and utility model applications is that industrial property not only generates benefits for all industries related to drugs or medical devices, but also becomes a wealth of knowledge available to all entities, large or small, which are involved in the innovation processes related to life sciences, among many others. It is well-known that many R&D centers worldwide, public or private, in addition to publishing their research in specialized magazines, also take advantage of intellectual property not only to protect their developments, but also to make all of them available to the public. This knowledge, translated into technological developments, may be useful and thus avoid repeating work, delays in the research processes and in this way stimulate an appropriate research and development ecosystem that allows, as an ultimate goal, the generation of sustainable development in the different economies of the world. To all this, it will be necessary to add the incorporation of artificial intelligence to the processes, not only in R&D, but also to security processes for the protection and administration of their intellectual property rights in a broader scope, from the point of view of contracts to the protection of industrial secrets themselves.

Besides the contribution that the industries related to the life sciences make to the economic development of different countries, it is important to be clear that, in addition to the economic benefit that the R&D processes generate, they also contribute to the possibility of being self-sustained in terms of medicines, medical devices and, in general, they generate a significant amount of benefits that may boost the living conditions of people in each of the countries participating in an R&D ecosystem.

Although it is true that intellectual property is a tool to protect the rights of inventors and, additionally, that it is a wealth of knowledge to be used appropriately to improve innovation processes and avoid unnecessarily repeating work, it is also true that intellectual property is a driver of economic development, and therefore, of social development. For this reason, it is important to always bear in mind that we cannot think of the sustainable development of our economies without considering intellectual property.

That is why it is relevant to have adequate and strong IP and copyright legislation and, as important, to have authorities who in addition to analyzing, evaluating, registering, and managing intellectual property rights, also enforce those rights.  Today, in our country, we have perhaps one of the best IP laws that we have ever had in our history as a result of the renegotiation of NAFTA that today has become the USMCA. This fact has notably strengthened our system, and with it, the real possibilities of offering to the industry, particularly to the life sciences-related industries, a legal framework that allows the development of their businesses, their industries and their economies, but also the development of our society and our economy. That is where, today, we must be focusing our efforts: toward a better economic and social development for our country.

Photo by:   Fernando Becerril