Updated: May 11
One of the biggest debates in the medical world is about the role of intellectual property rights and profits versus the common good and affordability. This has continued to play out especially in the production of generic drugs. Medical products like vaccines take millions if not billions of dollars to bring to the market. It is therefore important for you as an innovator to think of ways to protect this innovation if you are to benefit monetarily from the innovation. Protecting your intellectual property rights largely takes two paths (yes, there are many others that are possible depending on your product); patenting, and trade secrets.
Each has advantages and disadvantages;
Patenting your innovation
Patenting essentially means that you register as the innovator of a product or idea, such that no one else is allowed to bring the idea to market in the same form without your permission. Patenting for medical products is done by governments and monitored by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in conjunction with the World Health Organization (WHO). Registering a patent is a legal process that requires the services of a lawyer conversant with intellectual property laws. It is a lengthy process, and sometimes unsuccessful if a similar product appears in the market before the patent is registered. Patents in telemedicine are especially hard to register but your innovation is legally protected once the patent is registered, allowing you control over your product’s availability and pricing.
Keeping trade secrets
Many innovators have lost their intellectual property after access to their R&D data is accessed by other parties through leakages, stealing, or hacking. Innovations in telemedicine are especially prone to copying because they can be reengineered easily. Keeping trade secrets involves guarding the number of people and the type of access granted to information surrounding the innovation. The good thing with trade secrets is that they can be kept secret forever, unlike patents that have a time limit. However, they are not legally protected. Anyone can copy the innovation once its inner working is known.
A hybrid path
The best approach is usually to keep the innovation a secret until it is patented and continuing to shield its data once it is in the market. Access to the product is done by defining different types of licenses for entities interested in dealing with the product. You can license a wholesaler, for example, to brand the product in his brand colors as long as the trademark is attributed to you as the originator of the product.
Protecting your intellectual property rights is crucial if you intend to recoup your production costs and benefit from your product. Talk to a lawyer and get familiar with the process.
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