The Anatomy of Pharmaceutical Trademarks in Current Markets

Nadaline Webster,

In many regions, relevant trademark regulations apply to the creation, application, registration and use of all trademarks irrespective of their specific industry. In relation to pharmaceutical trademarks, this can pose something of an issue, given the additional demands and regulatory frameworks with which they must comply. The creation then of a new brand name for a pharmaceutical product is a complex journey, fraught with dangers at every step. First amongst these is that a pharmaceutical product will not have a single name.

Three (or more!) names for a single product:

At a bare minimum, each new drug will have three names. Firstly, there is the chemical name which is not generally used outside of the lab or chemical fields but can be shortened to a ‘code name’ for the potential new drug in-house as it develops.

Generic Name:

When the drug is developed, approval will be sought from the relevant geographical body and when approved, that relevant body will assign a generic name to the drug. This differs from the usual understanding of the term ‘generic’ as it applies to trademarks. The company that develops a drug will obtain a patent to protect its investment but while a trademark assigns a licence that is virtually perpetual once qualifying conditions are met, a patent has a comparatively short shelf life of twenty years. It’s a common misconception that the clock on a patent only starts ticking once the drug hits the market. In reality, a patent can be in force for years before a pharmaceutical company can begin commoditizing their creation. In different regions, there are different strategies that can be employed to extend or compensate for this but it is a complex matter.

The generic name is important because it will last the lifetime of the drug. Once the patent has expired, other companies are then free to produce their own versions of those drugs utilising that same generic name.

Brand Name:

The third name is arguably the most important from the perspective of the pharmaceutical company - their own brand name for the drug. This is a critical choice and must meet all the usual criteria for a strong brand name. But there are a host of other, long-standing challenges in the creation of pharmaceutical names. Potential solutions to these problems must be considered in the light of increasingly serious marketplace issues.

Challenges of trademark management

When you have brought your new brand to the market, what challenges will you find?

Top of the list is the moderation in the growth of the global pharmaceutical marketplace, alongside a similar pattern in both domestic and emerging markets. A number of business factors have been implicated in this slowdown along with some rather pressing social issues too. In 2017, growth in the consumption of medicinal products was predicted to sit at an annual growth of 3% until 2021.

Key to understanding the importance of an effective brand name and marketing strategy lies in considering the relationship between patents and the eventual product. As the patent expires and other companies are permitted to produce generic versions of this drug, some estimates place the drop in sales of the branded version of the drug to be as high as 80%.

Specialized trademark clearance

The creation of new medicines is a long-term, high-cost, high-risk business and each component part of the process carries its own costs, delays and risks. From a marketing and legal perspective, sourcing effective, faster and cheaper solutions to the challenges of specialized pharmaceutical trademark clearance is becoming an ever more pressing necessity when viewed against the backdrop of industry issues.

Webinar with Head of Pharma Trademarks at F. Hoffman-La Roche

Next Thursday we host an interactive webinar in which we discuss in further detail the main challenges related to trademark management in the Pharma industry today. Please join us in conversation with Tiffany Walter, Head of Pharma Trademarks at F. Hoffmann-La Roche on Thursday, 26th of September at 9.30AM CT / 3.30PM CET 

Can’t make it at this time? Why not register anyway and we will send you the recording after the webinar!

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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in January 2019 and has been updated in September 2019.