I was looking at the global spread of US drug patents — to obtain global patent protection for drugs companies must file for patents in each of the jurisdictions that they seek protection, within 12 months of the initial filing. Patents last for roughly 20 years, which means that current patent activity reflects a 20-year forward-looking sentiment on the attractiveness of a market.
When comparing India and China one sees an interesting trend. Before the 1980s there was little interest in obtaining patent protection in either country. In fact, it wasn’t possible in India because the country had not yet adopted the TRIPS accords which permit product patents. Over the course of the 1980s and 1990s interest in China increased, stabilizing at roughly 70% representation of US drug patents in that market.
In 2005 India adopted the TRIPS accords and (partially*) permitted product patents, so it would be very interesting to observe how global patenting trends were affected by the new ability to obtain pharmaceutical product patents there. Unfortunately, in 2005 Indian sources stopped sharing patent data with the European Patent Office, which serves as a global clearinghouse of patent globally-linked patents. This lack of transparency makes it impossible to determine global interest in the Indian market, and robs India the opportunity to tell the story of the impact of taking steps towards harmonizing their patent system.
*An important exception in India’s patent law is that new drug products must offer substantial new efficacy relative to existing products. This has been at the center of Novartis’ patent disputes in India.