Weakening IP would threaten R&D investment

A proposal to dramatically weaken intellectual property legislation could lead to the loss of thousands of high-skill jobs and millions of dollars of global investment in Australian R&D, Medicines Australia chief executive Ian Chalmers said today.

“Weakening Australia’s IP regime would have a negative impact on Australian R&D and is fundamentally at odds with the Prime Minister’s own commitment to make innovation a way of life in Australia,” Mr Chalmers said.

Generic medicines manufacturer Hospira is seeking changes in the IP laws to allow generic copies of innovative medicines to be manufactured for export while those medicines are still patent-protected, effectively cutting short patent life.

“The idea has no merit beyond the commercial agenda of a single pharmaceutical company and could spell disaster for medical innovation,” Mr Chalmers said.

“We are a country that boasts a sustainable competitive advantage in attracting and conducting high-quality, outcomes-oriented R&D. Australia’s pharmaceutical industry alone attracts more than $1 billion a year in global R&D investment.

“That investment generates smart jobs, provides highly skilled work for scientists and supports Australia’s aspiration to become a global leader in medical innovation.

“Such investment depends heavily on a consistent and predictable business environment with strong protection of IP rights. If predictability is undermined and IP legislation weakened, global companies will seek other investment destinations.

“Apart from the potentially disastrous economic ramifications, there are other reasons why weakening Australia’s IP laws would be counterproductive.

“It would contravene Australia’s obligations under the World Trade Organisation’s intellectual property laws. It would also likely provoke retaliatory measures by our key trading partners, with possible market access implications for our $4 billion in pharmaceutical exports.

“It would damage multi-lateral efforts to implement globally harmonised standards of IP protection. It would also undermine the rights of patent holders in Australia.

“From trade, innovation and economic perspectives, a move to effectively shorten patents in Australia would have dramatic consequences. It just doesn’t stack up.”


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