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Patent laws in the U.S. and abroad

In 2008, the U.S. began negotiating with 11 other countries with the goal of producing a free trade agreement. The 12-party discussion regarding the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement recently entered its 19th round. According to one source, the U.S. should push to include intellectual property rights on the agenda of the meetings.

U.S. laws protecting patents have been repeatedly ignored by developing countries. In 2012, India revoked or denied patents for nine U.S. patent-protected products. The cost of ignoring patent laws is not only high, but it poses a threat to innovation and research within U.S. pharmaceutical companies.

There are countless diseases and conditions in the world that have no known cure. Despite the fact that decades may pass before any progress is made, companies continue to fund research to find a cure or a treatment for cancer and for diseases like Alzheimer's or Parkinson's. The companies make these efforts not out of pure altruism, but also because the efforts are an investment.

Companies that develop and test experimental medicines take about 10 to 15 years and go through 5,000 to 10,000 proposed medications before they can get one that receives FDA approval. This effort is estimated to cost companies about $1.2 billion. Once a patent is received, the company can begin to recover the money spent on researching the medicine. Denying companies the profits associated with their development and research would discourage them from looking into solutions and exploring the more complex and seemingly untreatable medical conditions. Thus, it is important for intellectual property rights to be honored by law, both in the U.S. and internationally.

Source: Forbes, "Intellectual Property Rights Matter", Doug Schoen, September 24, 2013

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