Innovation Key to Reducing Healthcare Costs

By Kyle Keeney

As the new administration works to improve the healthcare system in the United States, we must remember that innovation is key to reducing costs and improving the lives of all Americans

As the founder of the Kentucky Access to Care Coalition, I have seen firsthand the critical role strong IP and patent rights play in our state’s ability to address society’s most challenging medical problems. Whether it is an independent inventor or one of our state’s universities, those on the frontlines of medical research rely on the U.S. patent system to help deliver solutions aimed at improving the health of all Kentuckians.

In addition to helping promote a healthier Kentucky, our patent system also ensures those who enter into the grueling R&D process are rewarded for their hard work. The U.S. patent system essentially incentivizes the medical breakthroughs that benefit us all. Last year alone at the University of Kentucky, the U.S. patent system helped bring about the issuance of 30 new patents – many of which were medical-related – and helped generate more than $6,563,000 in gross licensing revenue. These are tangible benefits that must be protected and built upon if we are to see continued progress in researching a cure for cancer and other life-threatening diseases.

A recent report focused on the state of intellectual property (IP) offers key insight into the increasingly challenging environment in which America’s innovators are currently operating. Released in February 2017, the fourth edition of the U.S. Chamber’s International IP Index examines the role IP plays in 38 economies across the globe.

The Chamber’s report scores each economy “based upon 30 indicators spread across six categories – Patents, Copyrights, Trademarks, Trade Secrets, Enforcement, and International Treaties.” Each of these areas is critical in protecting IP and patents, as well as promoting innovation and economic growth.

The U.S. patent system has always been considered the international gold standard, an engine of prosperity that has for generations propelled America to new heights. But our recent drop in the Chamber’s IP Index could is cause for concern. We must examine the reasons why we arrived here and take corrective action if we are to maintain a strong patent system.

Unfortunately, this gradual weakening of our patent system has been self-inflicted and entirely avoidable. According to the Chamber report, a combination of “challenges, additional cost, and uncertainty in the patent opposition system in place since 2011” led to a reduction in the U.S.’s overall score. This small yet noteworthy decline may not have made headlines just yet, but American innovators have surely taken notice as it has effectively made it easier for countries like China – which robs the U.S. of more than $300 billion a year in IP – to pilfer from the hardworking men and women who spend years researching and developing new ideas and technologies.

For the sake of continued advancements in Kentucky’s medical industry and for all of American innovation, we must heed the warning signs in these recent reports and immediately correct course. I encourage Kentucky’s elected officials to stand up for Kentucky’s innovators by protecting sound IP and working to maintain a strong U.S. patent system.

Kyle Keeney is the Founder of the Kentucky Access to Care Coalition and the Founder/CEO of the Kentucky Life Science Council.