Taiwan: Pharma at the Tipping Point - Pharmaceutical Executive

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Taiwan: Pharma at the Tipping Point


Pharmaceutical Executive


Pressure from both national and international businesses to bring Taiwan towards a culture of respect for intellectual property has combined with the government's ambition to make Taiwan a reputable place for investment in a way that has so far proved to be a success. TIPO's creation was the first vital step in this process, but that does not mean that their work is finished.

TIPO is working to make sure that those industries that rely on IP rights, such as the pharmaceutical industry, are fully satisfied with Taiwan's legislative stance. Earlier in 2010, TIPO submitted a revised draft of the Patent Law to the country's Legislative Yuan that contained several articles relating to the pharmaceutical industry, addressing the issues of both local and multinational companies. Through a series of consultations with stakeholders within the pharmaceutical industry, TIPO worked to create a list of topics that needed to be addressed in the new patent law, such as patent expiry, linkage, and extension. In order to draft the law, the IP office examined existing legislation from across the world—Europe, the US, Japan, and China—and believe they came up with a solution that was fair for all. As Wang says, "We took care of this article by taking a very neutral stance. Now that we are competing with many countries, especially with Mainland China, Taiwan needs to have a good IP protection environment, which will give us the power and the advantage to compete with other countries. This is happening today, and we have already achieved a great deal."


Peter Tsai, President of Orient Europharma
"The establishment of the Intellectual Property Office was a milestone in Taiwan's history of Intellectual Property protection, especially in the field of patents," says Fred Yen, managing partner of Tai E International Patent and Law Office. "Before the establishment of TIPO, patents and trademarks were the responsibility of a small governmental department. But after its creation, IP matters like patents and trademarks have become a major business for our government, and contribute significantly to state revenues every year."


Mackay Memorial Hospital in Taipei
Yen explains that until recently, the pharmaceutical and biotech industries did not account for a particularly large portion of his business. However, he believes the situation has recently begun to change. "We have observed a definite improvement in the state of the industry over the last 30 years. Originally, Taiwan looked to the successes of the US biotech sector, and tried to use it as a model for development of the industry in Taiwan, by establishing clusters of biotech companies. But it was not very successful, because the companies here did not manage to survive alone. A supporting structure was needed, which included aspects such as IP, a supportive banking system, legislation, and governmental measures."


Mark Lee, Vice Chairman of Morris Enterprise
However, in the pharmaceutical sector, nine out of every 10 companies working with Tai E are multinational companies. "Multinational pharmaceutical companies work with Tai E because they need to file patents in Taiwan, for instance, in order to secure their drug prices with the one major buyer here in Taiwan—the administration." By working with local companies such as Tai E, international clients guarantee that they have a company that will fully understand the local patent specifications, making their registration processes smoother and easier.

On first inspection, the fact that a drug has not yet been successfully developed in Taiwan might lead those viewing the market to the conclusion that the country's pharmaceutical market is not particularly dynamic. This is far from the case. Those with a more intimate knowledge of the pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical industry in the country understand that this is the moment where Taiwan can succeed in distinguishing itself from its Southeast Asian neighbors. A number of factors support this conclusion—the growing relationship with China is top of this list—but the fact that the Taiwanese biotech sector has developed in such an idiosyncratic way that it seems to support the argument that whether or not the government's plans for the development of the biotech sector bear fruit, it will not be long before Taiwan makes a name for itself in new drug development and become a key agent in the rising importance of Asia in the modern pharmaceutical landscape.


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