Perhaps no other industry is as dependent upon patents as is the biotech industry. In 2004 alone, more than 10% of the PTO's application filings were in the biotechnology sector. This is because patents are often the most valuable assets of biotechnology companies the majority of whom have no products on teh market. These innovative companies rely on their patents to generate the financing to further develop and commercialize a product or technology. This development process often requiers decades and hundreds of millions of investment dollars. Gaps in patent protection or weakened protections drive investors away from the biotechnology sector and toward less risky endeavors. As such BIO has a keen interest in the strength and integrity of the patent system.
The United States leads the world in biotechnology research and development which is fueled by the strength of the U.S. patent system. The United States pate system is designed to spur innovation and encourage research and development of new products and services for the benefit of society. This system, administered by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (PTO), is by far the best and the most widely utilized system in the world. However, because of this global nature of the patent system, the PTO is experiencing challenges unlike that which it has experienced before. The PTO's workload has increased dramatically over the past decade as new technologies are eligible for patent protection and as more research results in fruitful discoveries. BIO understands that large numbers of applications present adminstrative challenges, but also notes that large numbers of patent applications are a sign of a healthy, dynamic and growing national economy on the cutting edge of science and technology - a positive sign that should be welcomed as a contribution to the overall public good. Moreover, the PTO's harmonization efforts, the courts' increasing interest in patent matters, and Congressional efforts to reform the system are likely to lead to significant changes in patenting practice.