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Tuesday, 2 January 2007

Patents spur innovation shock

New Scientist reports that an innovative process developed by researchers at Imperial College and University of London could benefit many more of the estimated 200 million people worldwide who suffer from Hepatitis C. The process was apparently developed specifically to get round patent protection owned by Hoffmann-La Roche and Schering Plough, who market an interferon drug that cures the disease, but is very expensive and therefore not generally available to many poorer people.

right: human interferon beta.

By avoiding the particular structure protected by the patents, the researchers managed to develop a new process for a much cheaper version of the drug, which performs just as well as the protected version.

The IPKat congratulates the researchers on their work, and wonders whether this is proof that patents really can spur genuine and useful innovation. Merpel wonders whether Hoffmann-La Roche and Schering Plough will also be in a congratulatory mood, or whether they will be considering their legal options on purposive construction and equivalents.

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