As the NHS turns 70, it is notable that the focus for the future is on innovation for the improvement of patient care. Technologies spanning genetic research through to AI are considered key in driving success in future healthcare provision.
From an IP perspective, it is clear that the patent systems need to encourage and reward innovation in the medical field and yet it has been challenging at times for innovators in this space to achieve adequate patent protection.
In the wake of the Mayo and Prometheus Supreme Court decisions, biotech patenting in the US has experienced difficult times. Fortunately, the situation is starting to look more promising with new USPTO guidance recently issued to Examiners concerning patent eligibility in the field of personalised medicine.
In Europe, the situation has been more favourable at the EPO. For example, second-medical use patents are available for new therapeutic uses of known medicines, for example the treatment of new patient groups. Interestingly, the value of such patents from an enforcement perspective is currently being scrutinised in the UK with the on-going dispute between Warner-Lambert and Actavis over Warner-Lambert's pregabalin patent for treating pain. The much-anticipated Supreme Court decision in this case is due out soon.
As key stakeholders in the medical world continue to highlight the value of innovation in improving patient care, it is certainly our hope that the patent systems keep pace with the developments in this field, notwithstanding the challenges that inevitably exist.
Innovation sits at the heart of the next 70 years of evolution, and embracing it is critical in enabling the NHS in England to deliver better outcomes for patients and help it continue to be the healthcare envy of the world.