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Intellectpratik-voraual property rights (IPR) are playing a key role in every field during the 21st century. The pharmaceutical field does not remain out of the IPR storm. IPR principally involve patents, designs, trademarks, geographical indications, and copyright. Under the purview of pharmaceuticals, patents play a vital role.

Patent applications in the pharmaceutical field are broadly divided into two types: product patents and process patents. Product patents may be either an active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) or a formulation. Process patents involve procedures to prepare API or its intermediates. Both types of patent applications, upon approval by territorial government bodies, enjoy 20 years of freedom to market that product exclusively.

To start new research or invalidate existing patents, patent search has a vital role. Launching a pharmaceutical product in the market without checking its patent status may lead to infringement of the live patent, which eventually would lead to litigation and finally a huge loss in terms of money and reputation of the pharmaceutical company. Since searching patents is so important, many private companies have entered the market to provide paid databases. These paid databases prepare their own server and synchronizshutterstock_418564843e the data of various patent offices. Depending upon accuracy and reliability of their data, the various paid databases charge different amounts. Examples of such paid databases are SciFinder, Thomson Innovation, Orbit, PATSEER, and more.

Google has launched a free patent search portal named Google Patents. From my experience so far, Google Patents has proven more advantageous because with a single search it will bring up patent literature as well as non-patent literature (Google Scholar). In addition, recently in September 2016, Google updated their patent database and to include databases available from around 17 patent offices. Furthermore, Google Patents also provides “free machine translation” from various patent offices like Japan, Korea, Spain, China, etc. Translation of these patents has been charged heavily by paid databases. The Google Patents database contains full text of all granted patents since 1790 and patent applications since 2001. With this strengthening of the Google Patents database, will it become the primary choice for patent searching? Will it also interrupt markets of the well-established paid databases?

Pratik Vora is currently part of the IPR Division at BDR Pharmaceuticals International Pvt. Ltd. He received his master’s degree in pharmaceutics and completed his research work at Torrent Research Center. He also holds a PG Diploma in Patents Law.