Indian Courts Choose Life Over Patents

Although Judge Posner says that pharmaceutical companies are the poster children for patent protection, courts in India disagree. Most recently, Indian Intellectual Property Appellate Board revoked a patent covering an expensive, life-saving drug used in treating hepatitis C.  Since 2006, Indian courts have dealt major blows to pharmaceutical companies by denying patent applications, invalidating issued patents and requiring at least one company to license its patent to generic drug makers.

In reaching these decisions, the Indian courts seem to be wrestling with the concept of allowing patentees to reap extreme (disproportionate?) financial rewards while depriving those truly in need access to life-saving therapies.

There is no serious dispute that allowing inventors to reap financial rewards from their efforts is sound policy.  The “limited monopoly” conferred in a patent not only gives inventors the right to exclude others from making, using, selling and importing their inventions, but also incentives further innovation. 

But when balancing the inventors’ “right to exclude” with the notion that human lives have value and should be saved, the Indian scales of justice appear to tip in favor of saving lives.