Everyday should be an IP day

Innovation improves lives. This is the theme selected by WIPO this year for World IP day. I believe this is quite a non-controversial statement. Nobody will question that the light bulb, the fridge, high-speed trains or mobile phones have completely revolutionised our lives and opened a world of possibilities we couldn’t have dreamed of one century ago. These “revolutions” have multiplied at an unprecedented pace over the few decades.

When it comes to healthcare, improving lives is the central purpose of pharmaceutical innovation. One does not have to think long to understand how a new vaccine, a new medicine curing a particular disease or a new diagnostic are in the most literal and direct sense, improving our daily lives and contributing to people living longer, healthier and happier lives.

Innovation in the pharmaceutical sector is particularly difficult though. It’s a long and risky process, fraught with obstacles and risks of failure. Because it takes so much time and risks to bring a new medicine to patients, companies investing into researching and developing these new medicines need some guarantee than at the end of the process, if all efforts successfully turn into an innovative medicine, they will be rewarded for it.

That’s what intellectual property (IP) is about. Encouraging individuals or organisations, public or private, to go beyond their comfort zone, to go beyond the world and options of today, to reach for the future and all its promises, to go this extra step which means people lives can be improved or even saved. Encouraging these efforts by rewarding them when they succeed in making a difference. This can be for as long as the patent/SPC term. This can be just until a better product comes.

This holds true for every sector based on R&D and that’s what pushes the frontier always further. Be it a new car, a new computer, a new material or a new medicine. IP is everywhere around. It is the fuel to innovation and thereby the springboard to progress. IP is the reason why we have innovative medicines today, and critically also the reason why we will have more tomorrow. That’s what IP was about and that’s what IP is providing us.

Looking around, IP is everywhere, in every object, in every project. I know World IP Day is only Wednesday, but to me, every day should be an IP day, an occasion to remember that IP gives all of us the means to realise the potential of science and make a difference.

Elise Melon