Europe Remains Most Important for Patent Strategies for 83.3% of Pharma Firms

Pharma IQ

Right across the global pharmaceutical industry, companies are desperately seeking to diversify their product portfolios in anticipation of the countless patent expiries to follow those already seen around the world.

According to business information provider Datamonitor, the 2011 'patent cliff' is set to claim $78 billion (£49 billion) in global sales from brands with patents due to expire anywhere between 2010 and 2014. As a result, it has arguably never been more important for drug companies to ensure they have a solid application and litigation strategy in place. By developing robust strategies, firms should be able to extend their market exclusivity, establish their own intellectual property (IP) position and protect their existing patents.

In a recent Pharma IQ survey, conducted among key community figures ahead of the 7th Annual Developing IP Strategies for Crystalline Forms event in October, insight was gained as to the main challenges facing patent professionals in the months ahead. Also revealed were the key geographical regions expected to play the most significant part in drug companies' future patent strategies. Respondents to the questionnaire shared details of exactly how many litigation cases they were currently involved in, as well as how much of their time was committed to handling them.

Finally, the Pharma IQ research highlighted the extent to which external counsels are being used. Delegates also revealed what they look for when choosing a law firm and whether their current counsels were performing to a satisfactory level.

Key patenting challenges

Since 2011 marked the beginning of the six-year 'patent cliff', bringing record patent expiries of blockbuster drugs sold across the globe, the unique challenges involved in patenting crystalline forms have in recent time come increasingly into focus. Pharma IQ's annual Developing IP Strategies for Crystalline Forms event will provide practical solutions to the most common problems in patent application, as well as offering expert insight into the best litigation strategies. 

Patent professionals polled ahead of this year's event indicated what they believed to be their greatest single challenge as they further their IP strategies in the next 12 months. Drafting robust patent applications was found to be the key concern facing 14.3 per cent of delegates. An identical share of the vote was taken by respondents citing the task of proving innovation in their new crystalline forms as their biggest IP challenge.

Securing a supplementary protection certificate (SPC) proved to be the main struggle anticipated by a further 14.3 per cent of participants. But it was the challenge involved with implementing defensive patent strategies that claimed the remaining 57.1 per cent of responses.

Most important world regions

The 'patent cliff' phenomenon is one which threatens to crush the revenues and future prosperity of drug companies operating in every corner of the world. It is therefore essential that pharma professionals involved with patenting learn as much as they can about the application requirements for all of the regions contributing to their global IP strategy. It is to be expected, however, that certain geographical areas will be more important to future strategies than others.

In the latest Pharma IQ survey of pharma patent professionals, it was developed markets which appeared to remain the core focus of drug companies' IP strategic planning. Europe was named an important geographical region to the patent strategies of 83.3 per cent, while the US was found to be a main area of interest for 33.3 per cent of respondents.

Asia was cited as a priority by just 16.7 per cent of participants in the study, while India and South America were not singled out as the most important regions by anyone. This suggests that the focus of patenting strategy remains on developed economies as opposed to emerging markets.

Division of resources

Key to the success of any pharmaceutical firm's IP strategy will be ensuring that sufficient time and resources are allocated to all important patenting procedures. The Pharma IQ survey revealed a broadly even spread of resources between application drafting and litigation.


In terms of how long was being spent on drafting patent applications, 57.1 per cent of respondents said that it accounted for less than 25 per cent of their time. Meanwhile, 28.6 per cent of delegates said application drafting was responsible for at least half of their time, while 14.3 per cent estimated a figure between 25 and 49 per cent.

Looking at the amount of time firms were spending on litigation proceedings, 42 per cent suggested less than a quarter of their resources were being used in this area. Again, 14.3 per cent cited figures between 25 and 49 per cent, while an identical proportion suggested that it claimed up to three-quarters of their time. Interestingly, 28.6 per cent of respondents estimated that exactly half of their resources were being spent on litigation.

Use of external counsels

Pharma IQ's research indicates that 85.3 per cent of firms are currently involved in fewer than four litigation cases, while only 14.3 per cent have a greater number of court proceedings to handle. It was also found that many drug companies are using external counsels.

In fact, 71.5 per cent of the industry professionals surveyed revealed that this was the case in their organisation. In terms of satisfaction levels, 83.3 per cent of delegates from firms using an external counsel claimed to be happy with the service they were currently receiving.


When asked to name what they believed to be the most important factor when choosing a law firm with which to partner, 66.7 per cent of respondents unsurprisingly cited expertise as their main concern. The reputation of their chosen firm and the relationship shared between company and counsel each received just 16.7 per cent of the vote.

The 7th Annual Developing IP Strategies for Crystalline Forms event will be hosted from 24th to 26th October 2011 in London, UK. For details, visit the website: