Industry might want to take its eyes off the patent cliff for a moment and look at its patent submissions. IFI Patent Intelligence revealed to Pharm Exec this week that the number of new patents being filed is also trending downward.
In 2008, the pharmaceutical industry received the thumbs up for 2,987 patents, down from 3,219 the previous year. Meanwhile, the biologics community didn’t fare much better, having been approved for 2,676 patents, down from 2,926 in 2007.
The good news for drug companies is that the number of patents being submitted jumped from 8,653 to 9,430 in the past year. The number of submissions from biotech companies, however, has trended downward since 2003, when the molecular biology area submitted 10,189. By last year that number had stumbled to 5,412 filings.
Darlene Slaughter, general manager at IFI, explained that the number of filings in 2008 does not relate directly to the number of patents approved. It takes up to two years for a patent submission to make it through the approval process, meaning that the spike in submissions this year might not affect patent approvals until 2011—right around the time some of the biggest drugs begin to go off patent.
Patents aren’t the only indicator of a company’s success, Slaughter said, “but the more patents you have ready to go through the FDA approval process, the more likely you’ll be to have a couple of new blockbuster sin your pipeline.”
So what company received those most patent approvals in 2008? Bristol-Myers Squib took the top spot once again with 88 approvals, up from last year’s tally of 82.
Recently united firms Wyeth and Pfizer dropped from second and third place to fourth (64 patents) and sixth (47 patents), respectively. AstraZeneca (76 patents) and Roche (73 patents) surpassed Wyeth, while Merck bumped Pfizer out of the fifth place slot with 60 approved patents.
Slaughter said that pharma companies submit and are approved for far fewer patents than other industries due largely to the minimal number of components in a new chemical entity. Tech corporations rank the highest because of the thousands of small technologies involved in making a new computer or television, for example.
Unlike pharma, tech companies don’t rely as much on current patents for future earnings. “The lifecycle of the patents differ because although tech patents are effective for 20 years, they may not be any good after a year when the technology has moved on,” Slaughter said. “A pharma company’s aim is to get a patent that will keep them going for a good 20 years.”