Neglected Dimension of the Inventive Step as Applied to Pharmaceutical and Biotechnological Products: The case of Sri Lanka’s patent law
By Ruwan Fernando
Apart from the basic statutory definition in section 65 of the Intellectual Property Act of Sri Lanka, there do not appear to be any detailed statutory guidelines or judicial decisions to provide any framework for the assessment of inventive step in Sri Lanka. The current statutory definition is highly insufficient to evaluate the standard of obviousness in relation to biotechnological and pharmaceutical claims based on a combination or modification of a prior art reference.
The Courts in both developed and developing countries have adopted a variety of tests to evaluate the obviousness standard of a claimed invention based on a combination or modification of a prior art reference. Sri Lanka, as a developing country, should look at the development that has taken place in other jurisdictions and adapt the patent law to local conditions when developing tests or guidelines in a manner that is compatible with the World Trade Organization’s Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) and its biotechnology/pharmaceutical policy guidelines.
This approach that is appropriate to Sri Lanka is twofold. First, it is most likely to prevent the issuance of patents on trivial or incremental inventions that do not provide any technical advance to the existing prior art and are a mere extension of what is already known in the prior art. Second, it is most likely to protect genuine technical advances to the existing prior art while at the same time enhancing competition and promoting local innovations so that the local researchers will be able to draw on the existing knowledge for the purpose of follow-on innovations.