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Patent is one of the major forms of Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) used in the pharmaceutical industry. Trade mark, industrial design, geographical indication and copyright are other forms of IPRs available in India. Grant of patent in India is governed under the Patents Act, 1970.

Patents protect inventions. For pharmaceuticals, the invention is often a new molecule or family of molecules for the treatment (or prevention) of a particular disease (protected by what is known as a “product” or “substance patent”), or a method of producing a drug (protected by what is known as a “process” or “methods” patent)

A patent gives the owner a monopoly over the invention, usually for 20 years. During this period, no one can reproduce it, regardless of whether they copy the methods of the patent owner or come up with the invention independently. The trade-off is that the patent document itself (known as a “specification”) becomes a publicly available document. Hence, while the patent is in force, others can read about the invention and understand how it works, and have the information to exploit it as soon as the patent expires.