Patents give inventors exclusive rights for a limited period of time and thus provide incentives to undertake risky research projects. They also spur private investment to commercialise products and services.
The Bayh-Dole Act of 1980 was a landmark piece of US legislation that redistributed ownership of inventions funded by the federal government from the state to the academic institution where the discovery was made. The aim was to promote commercial development of new technologies by encouraging institutions to transfer their technology to the private sector. The Singapore Patents Act, introduced in 1994, contains legislation similar to the Bayh-Dole Act. As a result, patent filings by universities and research institutes have dramatically increased, but has innovation followed suit?
Conventional wisdom is that patents are necessary to stimulate private sector investment to develop products with high technological risk. However, some critics believe that the need to license numerous patents for a single product creates a ‘patent thicket’ that hinders development. Others argue that the multitude of patents leads to underuse of inventions.
One key example comes from the late 90s: the race to sequence the human genome was on between the public-funded Human Genome Project (HGP) and the private company Celera. Genes first sequenced by the HGP were freely available to the public, whereas genes first sequenced by Celera were protected by a contract law-based form of IP that lasted for up to two years. Celera’s genes were released to the public once they were re-sequenced by the HGP, but until that point, Celera could sell its data for substantial fees and required firms to negotiate licensing agreements for any resulting commercial discoveries. Research has shown that for the genes held even only for a short term by Celera, there was a persistent 20-30% reduction in subsequent scientific research and product development.
In Singapore, there is increasing emphasis on commercialisable outcomes of public-funded research. Biomedical research is one of the key pillars of Singapore’s knowledge-based economy, so it is imperative to understand whether patents actually help or hinder innovation. Some believe that the overuse of patents here as Key Performance Indicators has resulted in research institutes having a mountain of patents with little evaluation of commercial potential.
Is patent reform necessary for the biotech industry to thrive? This House believes so.
6:30 – 7:00 PM Registration
7:00 – 7:10 PM OBR & Speaker Introduction
7:10 – 7:15 PM ESSEC Asia-Pacific Introduction
7:15 – 8:30 PM Debate
8:30 – 9:30 PM Networking Reception
Daniel Collopy (Moderator)
Special Counsel, Spruson & Ferguson
Prof. David Epstein
Director, Centre for Technology & Development, Duke-NUS
Dr. Carl Firth
CEO, Aslan Pharmaceuticals
Dr. Leigh Berryman
Former CEO of Maccine
Ho Cheng Huat
EVP, IP Management Division ETPL
Dr. Yvette Flanigan
Senior Patent Associate, VJP