In the wake of Covid-19, the importance of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) in the health tech industry has become increasingly apparent. With the race to develop a vaccine and other medical solutions, protecting intellectual property has become a top priority for companies in the industry.
To better understand the competitive landscape, we thoroughly analysed the current players in the health tech industry and their respective IPR strategies.
Increasing Patent Filing in India since Covid-19
According to information from the 2021–22 IP India Annual Report, 66,440 applications were filed in India, which is 7,937 more than were submitted the previous year (58,503). The Minister of Commerce last year praised the DPIIT for “strengthening” the IP regime and “fostering innovation” and noted the trend of rising patent applications and eventual grants. He claimed these efforts had decreased application pending times while increasing the filings. Additionally, it was said that this would help India achieve its goal of ranking among the top 25 countries in the Global Innovation Index.
IP India’s Annual Reports showed 36,932 international patent application filings during 2021 and 2022, compared to 29,508 local applications. Notably, domestic registrations outnumbered foreign ones from January to March 2022, from 10,706 Indian filings to 9,090 foreign applicants’ filings. Before 2017–18, international patent applications filed in India were much more numerous than those from that country.
This number is more than twice the number of patents in force in 2017 (48,765), where the number of Indian patentees was 7,660 (6.36%) (as of 31st March 2017).
Referring to Section 83, it is clear that one of the factors considered in India when awarding a patent is to promote invention and ensure that the ideas are used on a commercial basis in India. But does the law require any protections to guarantee these factors are appropriately considered? While there are ways to end or limit this monopoly for poor or ineffective patents (compulsory licencing, revocation of the patent, etc.), the mandatory mechanism to monitor the effectiveness of patents is through the provision of Section 146.
How has the patent scenario changed with time?
India’s total funding in the health tech companies plunged 55 per cent from $3.2 billion in 2021 to $1.4 billion in 2022. Before 2019, India’s healthcare sector reported total funding of US$ 586.93 million. Therefore, it can be concluded that, despite the Covid-19 crisis’s role as a roadblock, the Indian healthcare industry is expanding at a healthy rate.
By 2025, India’s Medical Device Industry alone is projected to be worth US$50 billion.12 India has a rare opportunity to change parts of the regulations governing medicinal supplies and drug testing thanks to the Covid-19 issue.
The Indian government launched the ‘Start-up India’ programme in 2016 to aid small businesses. Practo, 1mg, Cure.PharmEasy and other start-ups are emerging as leaders in India’s telemedicine and online pharmacy industries. These start-ups became an immediate help to India in times of disaster like Covid-19 when visiting the hospital for common illnesses is already risky. The need for unnecessary travel and the risk of infection has decreased thanks to online pharmacies.
Many of these firms have developed a strong user base and drawn significant funding during the past few years, and according to research from Inc42, the entrepreneurs in this industry got $2.2 billion in funding over the year through 131 agreements. With a CAGR of 27%, this amount is predicted to increase to $21.3 billion by 2025.
With a focus on patent applications to obtain early market advantages, AI in HealthTech is expanding quickly. The interest in creating AI-driven solutions has increased due to the potential socioeconomic effects of AI in healthcare. Many businesses rely on intellectual property (IP) tactics, particularly the application of patents, to safeguard their discoveries and gain a competitive edge.
Over time, many more patent applications have been for HealthTech AI inventions. According to the US National Centre for Biotechnology Information, there were more than 28 new registrations for HealthTech AI advances every day in 2019.
Benefits of a Strong Patent Portfolio
Innovations in the field of health technology are frequently vulnerable to infringement. Hence rigorous monitoring and enforcement of IP rights are essential. Imagine a rival creating a product similar to your patented remote patient monitoring device. Regularly monitoring the market and taking enforcement measures when required, such as sending cease-and-desist letters or filing a lawsuit, will help you safeguard your IP and keep your market share.
An efficient IP strategy in the health tech industry requires matching your IP aims to your overarching corporate goals. For instance, building a robust patent portfolio and safeguarding your algorithms’ underlying technology becomes crucial if you focus on creating ground-breaking AI algorithms for personalised medicine. You can manage resources wisely and increase the value of your IP assets by having a thorough IP strategy.
International IP protection is required since health tech enterprises frequently have international objectives. For instance, obtaining international patents and trademarks can assist in defending your technology in foreign markets and protect your brand in a foreign market if you have created an inventive wearable gadget for monitoring chronic illnesses.
Consultation with IP specialists knowledgeable in international IP legislation will ensure you can negotiate the complexity of many jurisdictions and create a plan to safeguard your IP assets abroad.
Innovation and licencing can open doors for expansion and cooperation in the health technology sector. For instance, a partnership with pharmaceutical firms to licence your AI-driven drug discovery platform might hasten the creation of life-saving drugs. By carefully arranging licencing arrangements, you can keep ownership of your intellectual property while gaining access to the knowledge and resources of more prominent organisations.
You can successfully protect your ideas, encourage growth, and promote healthcare technologies by including these factors and examples in your IP strategy for health technology.
Our analysis revealed that companies with strong patent portfolios tend to have a competitive advantage over their peers. This is particularly true for companies that have developed innovative solutions in response to the pandemic.
Additionally, we found that companies that have invested in patent litigation have been able to protect their intellectual property and prevent competitors from infringing on their patents. This has allowed them to maintain their market position and continue to innovate without the fear of copycats stealing their ideas.
However, we also found that companies that have relied solely on patents may be at risk of losing their competitive edge. As the industry evolves, companies must focus on developing a robust IPR strategy that includes a mix of patents, trade secrets, and trademarks.
Overall, our analysis suggests that companies prioritising IPR and developing a comprehensive strategy that aligns with their business goals will be better positioned to succeed in the health tech industry in the post-Covid world.