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IP law and the pharmaceutical industry

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IP Commercialisation

The pharmaceutical industry is predicated on innovation and protected formulations

But how exactly does IP interact with pharma? This quick overview explains.

Image of a spread of white pills on a blue background

Photo by Hal Gatewood on Unsplash

Words by Dr Martin Douglas Hendry




Intellectual property (IP) law plays a crucial role in the pharmaceutical industry. It allows pharmaceutical companies to protect their inventions and creations, ensuring that they are able to profit from their research and development efforts. This, in turn, incentivizes continued innovation and the development of new and improved drugs to treat a wide range of medical conditions.

In the UK, IP law is governed by the Intellectual Property Office (IPO), which is responsible for granting patents, trademarks, and other forms of IP protection. In this blog, we will explore the ways in which IP law is applied in the pharmaceutical industry, and how it helps to support innovation and development in the sector.





Patents are a form of IP protection that allows pharmaceutical companies to prevent others from making, using, or selling their inventions without permission. In the UK, a patent can be granted for a new product or process that is novel, non-obvious, and has industrial application. The patent process typically takes several years to complete, and once granted, a patent will provide protection for a period of up to 20 years.





Trademarks are another important form of IP protection in the pharmaceutical industry. They are used to protect the brand names and logos of pharmaceutical products, helping to prevent others from using similar branding to confuse consumers. In the UK, a trademark can be registered with the IPO if it is distinctive and has not been registered by another party. Once registered, a trademark will provide protection for a period of 10 years, which can be renewed indefinitely.



Data exclusivity


In the pharmaceutical industry, data exclusivity refers to the period of time during which clinical trial data used to support the approval of a new drug cannot be used by other companies to support the approval of a similar drug. This period of exclusivity helps to protect the investment made by pharmaceutical companies in conducting clinical trials, and incentivizes continued innovation in the sector. In the UK, data exclusivity is typically granted for a period of 10 years.





In some cases, pharmaceutical companies may choose to license their IP to other companies. This allows them to access the expertise, resources, or distribution channels of the licensee, while still maintaining control over their IP. Licensing agreements can be an effective way for pharmaceutical companies to expand their reach and access new markets, while still benefiting from the protection provided by IP law.





IP law plays a crucial role in the pharmaceutical industry, helping to protect the inventions and creations of pharmaceutical companies and incentivize continued innovation. In the UK, IP protection is governed by the IPO, which offers a range of tools, including patents, trademarks, data exclusivity, and licensing, to support the development of the pharmaceutical sector. By understanding and effectively utilizing these tools, pharmaceutical companies in the UK can continue to drive innovation and improve the quality of healthcare for patients around the world.





Look at our other guides that relate to this topic here.

How to protect your business' intellectual property

Why you should care about protecting your intellectual property

Why do we need IP?



Virtuoso Legal is a team of intellectual property specialists based in Leeds and London - operating worldwide. Virtuoso Legal's team of IP experts have successfully tried cases in the IPEC, High Court, Court of Appeals and United Kingdom Supreme Court. In addition, the team assist companies in creating, commercialising and protecting the big ideas that make their business unique. The firm and its professionals are ranked yearly in legal directories such as the Legal 500 and Chambers and Partners, cementing their status as a Top 2% law firm in the world.

DISCLAIMER: The content within this post is for educational purposes only. Virtuoso Legal does not take any responsibility for those that use this information and waives any liability for any resulting effect on your personal or commercial circumstances. If you are experiencing an issue and need advice, we strongly encourage you to contact a solicitor to identify your best course of action.

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