Letter: Patents prevent plagiarism

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Sir: One has to question why Sam Clarke (Letters, 10 June) is giving a misleading view on the draft European Union Directive on the legal protection of biotechnological inventions. The Directive is not seeking to patent "the essence of life", nor will it prevent further research being carried out in the fields of any new patents.

The Directive, which has been the subject of much discussion by many of the expert committees of the European parliament over the last seven years or so, seeks only to harmonise across Europe that which is already patent practice. If the Directive is passed, it will not lead to patent rights in biotechnology being any broader than exists at present. The Directive will not affect the scope of patent claims, and established mechanisms will remain in existence allowing patent decisions, which are felt to be too broad, to be challenged.

The research exemption provision in patent legislation will continue to allow research on a patent invention without infringement.

A strong intellectual property base in biotechnology will actually encourage innovation, promote the sharing of knowledge and stimulate further research, not prevent it.

Without an effective and harmonised patent system across Europe for biotechnology inventions, it is most unlikely that there will continue to be the amount of high-risk investment in biomedical research needed for the new medicines and therapeutics of tomorrow.

Dr JEFF KIPLING

Director of Science and Technology

The Association of British

Pharmaceutical Industry

London SW1

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