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World IP Day: How Intellectual Property Protections Spur Innovation


Every April 26, we celebrate World Intellectual Property Day as a way to remember the critical role intellectual property (IP) protections play in encouraging innovation. Managed by the World Intellectual Property Organization and the United Nations, this day has particular relevance to innovators in the United States, like biopharmaceutical researchers, who are pursuing the next great discovery that will make our lives better, strengthen our economy and keep us competitive globally.

The Importance of IP Protections: The U.S. patent system and the protections it provides for innovations plays a vital role in promoting competition and spreading knowledge. For one, IP protections give innovators certainty that their proprietary inventions or products are protected from copycats, encouraging them to pursue that one idea that may work despite hundreds of others that may fail. At the same time, innovators publish the specifics of their invention in exchange for these protections so others can learn from their research and use it as a building block for future, competing discoveries.


While a number of industries key to our economy rely on a robust U.S. patent system, strong IP protections are especially critical for the biopharmaceutical industry. In fact, innovation is the bedrock on which the development of new medicines is built. That development has the potential to result in treatments and cures that save and improve millions of lives, but it is a lengthy and complex process. The work that goes into the initial discovery and patent application is just the beginning. A biopharmaceutical company must then demonstrate the safety and efficacy of a new treatment through rigorous testing that involves clinical trial data before a medicine can be made available to patients. By the time a medicine is ready for the market, it has typically taken about $2.6 billion and 10 years – about half of the life of a patent.

Strong IP protections are critical to continued medical innovation, improvements in patient care and spurring economic growth here in the United States.

The Value of IP Protections in the United States: The U.S. IP system created by Congress provides the framework necessary to invest in research and development of new treatments for our most costly and challenging diseases. Our framework enables us to balance innovation for the need for affordable access to medicines. As a result, the United States is now a global leader in new medicine approvals. We also have more generic medicines being available more quickly. Today, 90 percent of prescriptions in the United States are filled with generics, and there are roughly 4,000 new medicines in development including hundreds for conditions like cancer and Alzheimer’s. This is supported by the fact that America’s biopharmaceutical industry is a major contributor to the nation’s R&D economy and helps keep America at the forefront of advanced technology development. The industry ranks first among all U.S. manufacturing industries in terms of R&D dollars invested per employee, and is responsible for about one out of every six dollars spent on R&D by U.S. businesses.

Additionally, the biopharmaceutical industry directly employs more than 800,000 Americans and supports a total of 4.7 million jobs.

The Role of IP Protections Around the World: IP is important on the international scale as well, as intellectual property systems differ from country to country. Many countries, including nations like Canada, China and India, unfortunately embrace IP systems that discourage medical innovation by not providing adequate protections, ultimately diminishing patient access to new treatments and cures. International trade can serve as a tool that lifts IP standards around the globe and encourages even more investment in innovation.


IP and the New Era of Medicine: Intellectual property protections are key to the discovery of tomorrow’s life-changing medicines and directly lead to better treatment options and better outcomes for patients.


Learn more about the importance of IP to innovation.