Hot Legal Careers: Global Trends in Compulsory Patent Licensing

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Intellectual property litigation is a growing practice area, increasing as products and deals are more often multi-jurisdictional, and as the revenues at stakes are greater. For emerging economies facing huge health costs (including human misery and mortality) related to diseases whose cost-prohibitive treatments are controlled by patent-holding drug makers. One solution governments have implemented is compulsory patent licensing, which enables generic pharmaceutical companies to manufacture versions of patented drugs where the branded drug is cost-prohibitive. Lakshmi Kumaran, elite litigator as well as founder & managing partner of one of India's premier, full-service law firms, Lakshmi Kumaran & Sridharan, Attorneys (L&S), presented "Compulsory License and Access to Medicines: The Indian Experience" as part of Harvard Law School’s Center on the Legal Profession’s speaker series on building a meaningful career in the law. He talks in particular about Bayer's appeal to prevent its Nexar drug from being subject to India's compulsory licensing scheme, and its compatibility with the World Trade Organization's (WTO) TRIPS Agreement.

Why is this case so important? CLP says, "This action is being closely watched worldwide because of the important role played by Indian companies in supplying affordable generic versions of medicines globally... If upheld, the development of this regime may be a game changer for global health, opening the way for other Indian generic pharmaceutical companies to seek compulsory licenses to manufacture cheaper versions of essential drugs. In fact, further applications have already been filed against Bristol-Meyers Squibb and Roche for other cancer-fighting drugs." Since this presentation, Bayer lost its final appeal.

Like Globalization and Lawyers in Emerging Economies, this is a must-watch for lawyers considering careers serving companies with operations in India, or countries with similar compulsory licensing rules. (Take a look also at What Does It Take to Be an International Lawyer Today?)