As patents grant monopolies, the patent system has a considerable impact on markets. When corporations use certain patent strategies, social welfare can be damaged. This article focuses on how corporations use patent strategies in the biomedical sector. Strategic patenting makes it possible to extend monopolies beyond the designated period and block competitors. Access to fundamental research can be restricted. Patients are disadvantaged by high monopoly prices for drugs, which can mean exclusion from treatment. It is argued here that as biomedical technologies are so vital to the welfare of people, and that in some cases are literally a matter of life or death for patients, this area of technology should not be controlled by private companies through their patent monopolies. The whole biomedical sector should be taken out of the ambit of the patent system.
- Governments need to recognise that certain types of invention, which are vital to social welfare, should be exempt from patenting, as patents award a monopoly.
- There is now clear evidence that pharmaceutical companies manipulate the patent system in order to use the monopoly to dominate markets and control access to research. Biomedical innovations should not be patented.
- A partial dismantling of the patent system is necessary to remove biomedical inventions.
- Practical steps: Patents on biomedical technology need to be phased out and no new patents granted.
- Practical steps: a robust and stable system of remuneration by public funding must be implemented.
Image credit: etorov via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)