Patently universal

Teva Canada gift establishes a leading-edge patent law program that goes beyond the world of pharmaceuticals

From the Spring/Summer 2012 issue of Nexus.

Teva Canada wants to shine a spotlight on what some might call the newest frontier in law: patent law, a critical area of business for the pharmaceutical company with branded and generic drug divisions.

“There are always new issues emerging and coming to the forefront which transforms what the issues are,” says Ildiko Mehes, VP and general counsel. “And because it’s such a litigious area—and so vital to our business—we continue to push the field of patent law forward. Both sides make very novel arguments. Then both sides have to respond to these novel arguments. So the field is really like a chess game, where companies are constantly trying to be one step ahead of their opponents.”

One way Teva is stepping out in front is with its generous gift to the Faculty of Law, a $1M donation to establish a cutting-edge patent law program for scholars and law students, including an annual seminar for the bench to tackle the known and unknown issues.

“It’s a complicated area,” says Mehes, “because of the scientific background required to grapple with patent issues. We’d like to promote a solid academic understanding of patent law, give basic primers in the science behind many of the pharmaceutical patents, encourage its teaching and research at the Faculty of Law, and ideally raise the level of academic discourse and promote interdisciplinary research with health law, competition law and other related areas,” explains Mehes.

And Teva looked no further than the Faculty of Law to establish such a program. “We knew the University of Toronto law school was exceptionally well-positioned to be able to attract the talent to help us achieve our goals.”

Adds Mehes: “We felt it would be beneficial for the court and the bar to have an annual discussion, not in a court room, nor in the context of litigation, but in an academic setting, and include top speakers from around the world for added perspectives. This would help make decisions more predictable for everyone in the pharmaceutical industry, not just generic or branded companies.”

More importantly, Mehes stresses that patent law principles are universal, and patent decisions have applicability and relevance in other fields beyond the pharmaceutical sectors, such as mining and high-tech companies.

“I certainly think patent law is growing in terms of prominence and importance in law.” And—note to law students—the area is in demand.

“Patent law is recession-proof,” says Mehes. “And the pharmaceutical industry is generally recession-proof. It’s a fascinating, challenging area, with broad policy implications.”

Illustration: Justin Renteria