Olympus Has Risen: Dr. Mohan Dewan on Drug Patents

Ritvik M. Kulkarni

On the fourth day of the ILS IP Week 2015, the enthusiastic attendees had the rare opportunity to witness the legend, Dr. Mohan Dewan, give an insightful talk on Patents in the Drugs and Pharmaceutical Industry. The fact that Dr. Dewan almost effortlessly conducted two consecutive sessions with reliance on nothing but his mind and voice is itself an indication of the man’s patent brilliance.

His first session consisted of a general discussion on the concept and understanding of the word and the legal creature known as Patent. By asking the audience a few, yet extremely pertinent, questions, he forced them to rethink their understanding of the concept. He then legally analyzed the concept of patent as a contract between the government (who grants the monopoly rights) and the investor (who discloses the invention specifications) to fulfill all the conditions of a valid contract. Among the various interesting aspects discussed, Dr. Dewan explained that there is no such thing as a ‘product patent’ or a ‘process patent’. They are in fact classifications of an invention and therefore there is only one kind of patent in India (unlike in the US where there are also design Patents). Dr. Dewan stated, “Innovation is not the exclusive domain of scientists; many lawyers are inventors as well. One has to be innovative to be a great lawyer”. (Dr. Dewan also revealed that he has a few patents registered in his name as well!)

After a short tea break the second session commenced. At the outset of this session Dr. Dewan gave a brief overview of the global pharmaceutical industry and its nexus with the Indian patent regime. He stated that innovation is the cornerstone of the industry; and that a strong patent is likely to increase incentive to conduct and invest in research. This was followed by an explanation of the entire process, comprising of four stages of drug discovery, of innovation in the drug industry; accompanied by the process of obtaining all the regulatory approvals so the drug can be put up for sale in the market. While discussing the current political scenario and approach towards drug patents, Dr. Dewan stated that since the patent regime is not correctly framed or developed, India does not see as much foreign investment (or patents filed) / such as other countries such as inter alia Switzerland; which offers generous tax holidays for foreign pharmas to attract R&D investment.

To conclude, Dr. Dewan urged that law students should appreciate that the reason why the US gives stronger patent protection is because its citizens are covered by social security benefits. Therefore the correct approach is to encourage the government to introduce such health schemes in India as well; instead of blaming the pharmaceutical world for pressurizing the legislature into making stronger patent laws in India.


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