The Incentive Argument in Pharmaceutical Patent Law

32 Pages Posted: 2 Sep 2022

See all articles by Aaron Poynton

Aaron Poynton

London School of Economics and Political Science

Date Written: August 30, 2022


This working paper critically examines the pharmaceutical industry and the incentive argument in patent law. It begins by framing an overview of the industry and patent law, focusing on U.S. and U.K. law, and multilateral agreements, and efforts by international organizations, such as the World Trade Organization (WTO). Next, the paper considers patent incentive arguments on both sides of the issue to provide a well-researched and more balanced perspective. It then views the longstanding debate through the lenses of contemporary issues related to Covid-19 vaccines and the recent patent waivers considered by many countries. Lastly, this paper provides concluding opinions supporting the argument that intellectual property protection is core to innovation in the pharmaceutical industry, but patent waivers may be a necessary tool in certain situations. It concludes by recommending fixing the TRIPS compulsory licensing provision flaws and carefully finding a TRIPS waiver solution that could strike the desired balance between protecting intellectual property (IP) and providing for the common good.

Keywords: Pharmaceutical Patent Law Incentive

JEL Classification: O3, O31, O34, O38

Suggested Citation

Poynton, Aaron, The Incentive Argument in Pharmaceutical Patent Law (August 30, 2022). Available at SSRN: or

Aaron Poynton (Contact Author)

London School of Economics and Political Science ( email )

Houghton Street
London WC2A 2AE, WC2A 2AE
United Kingdom

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