Published Date: November 16, 2020

Biotechnologists work tirelessly to improve our quality of life.  Never has this been more evident than in the current global health crisis that we face.  Their inventions address some of the world’s greatest challenges. Advancements in medicine, surgical procedures, food science, and agriculture, amongst many others, stem from innovations and technical achievements in this field of science.  Many of these may not have seen the light of day without the benefit of patent protection.

Why patents are important in the field of biotechnology

Significant time and resources go into the development and commercialisation of biotechnology inventions.  Considering typical delays to commercialisation arising from clinical trials, field trials, and compliance with regulatory requirements, return on investment is often far removed from initial development work.

Patenting in this field of technology is essential to safeguard efforts in recuperating and showing a return on financial investment.  There are many potential infringers lurking in the wings, to capitalise on the hard work of others.  In the absence of patent protection, they may have an unobstructed path to do so.

Financial considerations aside, the exclusivity constituted by patenting of biotechnology inventions fosters further technical advancements in the industry, as other players are required to innovate around existing patents and improve on existing products. While arguments for an open source morally motivated approach will always be made, and may in many respects hold true, one cannot disregard the market based need for commercial motivation which, although not always presented as such, has led to some of the greatest technological advancements of our time.  Patents serve prominently in this context.

Patenting therefore holds significant value and relevance in the field of biotechnology, and can in many cases be one of the most important assets owned by biotech innovators, provided they move to acquire such assets in a strategically sound manner.

Understanding the complexities of biotechnology patents

Patenting considerations in the field of biotechnology are difficult to navigate.  For guidance, innovators should take care to engage the services not only of knowledgeable, but of experienced legal advisors, who have an understanding of the law and of the technology.

Decisions relating to the suitability and availability of patent protection, the timing of when to initiate the patent application process, patent prosecution strategies in light of peculiar legal provisions and practices that differ vastly from country to country, and the like, are far-reaching, and all require careful consideration and substantive input.

At Adams and Adams, our team draws on the biotechnology research and patent prosecution expertise of senior associate Dr Charleen Rupnarain, and on the patent prosecution experience of partner Pieter Visagie, who together have almost two decades of relevant experience in these fields.  This is supplemented by our firm’s institutional knowledge that has been built over more than a decade of serving various prominent established and up-and-coming academic, research and industry biotechnology players.

Our biotechnology practice continues to serve clients in these sectors, across multiple focus areas that include medicines, industrial biotechnology, and agriculture. Specific projects that we have been involved in include diagnostics and treatments for tuberculosis, cancer, HIV and Covid-19, and applications in agriculture, horticulture, forestry, veterinary and microbiology.

Our experience in these areas, across multiple jurisdictions, equips us to assist biotechnology innovators in pre-filing strategy discussions, as well as in the drafting, filing and prosecution of patent applications, with skill, knowledge and experience, mindful of legal peculiarities and commercialisation challenges.

Our biotechnology patent experts recognize the value of scientific advancements and the opportunities resulting from their development. To protect the fruits of your labour, get in touch with one of our patent experts today. Find out more on how our experienced team can help you protect your innovation. We look forward to working with you!

Charleen Rupnarain
Senior Associate | Patent Attorney
Pieter Visagie
Partner | Patent Attorney