ALP: As an innovative life sciences company, what are my primary intellectual property concerns?

June 2007

There are two critical concerns facing a life sciences company who either is using or developing technology.  The first involves identifying intellectual property and ensuring that this valuable asset is adequately protected.  For example, trade secrets and patentable inventions should be identified and distinguished, then the necessary steps should be taken to protect these assets under the law.  Where your company assets are trade secrets, specific steps must be taken to adequately protect and maintain these secrets.  Likewise, where patentable inventions exist, care must be taken to protect these investments before a public use or sale bars patent protection.  In this regard, carefully implementing precautions and proactively seeking patent protection can vastly improve the value of your company.  Further, carefully protected intellectual property assets signal to investors and  potential licensees or collaborators  that your company is forward thinking and worthy of investment.

The second, perhaps more important consideration for a life sciences company, is ensuring that any technologies practiced by your company do not pose a potential liability by infringing existing patents held by third parties.  Due to the exceedingly high cost of patent litigation (at least one million dollars per year of litigation, often lasting many years) knowing the scope and boundaries of existing patents can be critical to success.  In addition, a competent opinion finding that your business practices do not infringe these patents can protect your company from increased damages and charges of willful infringement. 

In sum, innovative life science companies must look both forward and backward, assertively protecting technologies while ensuring that the business practices do not infringe the rights of others.  By doing this, companies can maintain and increase the value of their business.