Intellectual Property and Public Health

The patent system offers incentives for innovation, research and development by allowing patent holders to prevent third parties from unauthorised manufacture, use, sale or import of the patented product (or equivalent for use or process patents). In exchange for disclosure of the information on which the invention depends, these exclusive rights normally apply for 20 years from filing the patent application, although the period of exclusivity following marketing approval may be considerably less. The incentive to invest in research and development, and subsequent commercialisation of an invention, rests on the ability to obtain a return on the investment in R&D by excluding direct competition during the period of the patent.