The Political Contradictions of Incremental Innovation in Late Development: Lessons from Pharmaceutical Patent Examination in Brazil
Posted: 13 Aug 2009 Last revised: 12 Aug 2011
Date Written: August 2009
This paper examines the political contradictions of neo-developmental patent regimes, which aim to foster wide use of knowledge by local actors while also encouraging incremental innovations. I use the case of pharmaceutical patent examination in Brazil to illustrate the political tensions inherent to such a strategy. Pharmaceuticals have been patentable in Brazil since 1997, and in 2001 the Brazilian government introduced a supplementary measure for vetting pharmaceutical applications that is intended to weed-out trivial modifications and ensure that only innovative products and processes receive patent protection. Though widely celebrated as an example of health-oriented patent policy, the Brazilian experience has been fraught with difficulties and tensions. The evanescence of coalitional support illustrates the political challenges endemic to neo-developmental patent systems. In particular, I focus on two sources of coalitional fragility: bureaucratic isolation and the ambivalence of key constituents.
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