It is not only the discovery of a new drug that can provide a life science company with valuable patent protection but also the discovery of a new use for an old drug, i.e. identifying a new indication or even a new drug combination or dosage. This may seem at odds with the requirement for novelty or at least non-obviousness but the reality is that such innovations can be as beneficial, or even more so, than the originally envisioned use. As we will explain in this guidance note, patenting “new and inventive uses” of old drugs has now become big business. This special area of European law only applies to medicines and not “devices” so there are a number of legal complications that need to be navigated.
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