Our position on intellectual property rights and patenting

The patent system is an important means for stimulating research and development.

Valuing patents & IPR

Valuing patents & IPR

On average it takes more than 10 years to develop a new medical treatment. The costs can amount to up to more than 1 billion dollars, and it is essential to be able to recoup these investments.

Patenting facilitates early publication of new inventions and in return gives the inventor an exclusive right to use the invention commercially for a limited period of time, usually 20 years. Without patents many life-saving medicines would never have been made available for those who need them.

Committed to accessibility of medicines

In many developing countries it is a difficult and complex challenge to ensure that sufficient treatment is made available for all. It is our goal to develop better medical solutions that can radically improve the lives of people with diabetes, haemophilia and other conditions.

We therefore depend on efficient protection of our intellectual property rights. We aim to ensure that our innovations contribute to better health for people across the world. 

We are the largest provider of human insulin worldwide. Human insulin is an essential drug on the WHO Model List of Essential Medicines and has been off patent for many years. This means human insulin is in the public domain and can be manufactured in any part of the world without the need of a license to any patents.

We make human insulin available to the world's least developed countries - LDCs (as defined by the United Nations) through our Access to Insulin Commitment where human insulin is offered at a maximum of 20% of the realised price in Europe, the US, Canada and Japan. In many other low- and middle-income countries, we sell human insulin at equally low prices through large government tenders reaching millions of people with diabetes. As a consequence, we do not view non-exclusive voluntary licensing as the appropriate tool to ensure access to essential diabetes medicines like human insulin.

Our position

We are committed to advancing the responsible use of intellectual property rights for the benefit of human health.

  • We see intellectual property rights as a fundamental precondition for growth and innovation, leading to new and better treatment options and improved human health throughout the world. We wish to exercise our intellectual property rights in a responsible way in accordance with our corporate values - the Novo Nordisk Way – which integrates social, environmental and financial considerations in the way we drive our business.
  • We neither engage in patenting activities in least developed countries (as defined by the United Nations) as well as low-income countries (as defined by the World Bank), nor enforces patents in these countries.
  • We commit to publicly disclose patent status in countries where we have issued or are pending patents covering the active ingredients used in our portfolio of commercialised medicines. See the list.  
  • We recognise that health emergencies requiring exceptions to intellectual property rights, can and should be accommodated under the international legal framework, yet only under extraordinary circumstances: (i) national emergency, (ii) circumstances of extreme urgency, or (iii) public non-commercial use. We do not support any routine use of compulsory licensing. As an example, absence of local manufacturing should never be a ground for issuing compulsory licenses.
  • We respect third parties’ valid patent rights.
  • W do not engage in patent activities with the sole purpose of blocking the freedom-to-operate of third parties.
  • We will license our patents on genes for use as research tools and diagnostic agents on a non-exclusive basis under fair terms consistent with the advancement of biomedical research.
  • On a regular basis any given patent family owned by Novo Nordisk is subjected to a critical review, and only business-relevant patent rights are pursued and maintained. Other patents will be dedicated to the public and thus become freely available to anyone who wishes to exploit or further develop these technologies.
  • We believe that it is important to harmonise the patent system in order to create clear and operational patenting criteria, and to ensure fair and effective administration of the patent system.
  • We support the principle that patents shall not be granted in respect of biotechnological inventions which concern processes for cloning human beings or processes for modifying the germ line genetic identity of human beings (Article 53(a),(b), Rule 28(c) EPC2000).
  • We support the principle that patents shall not be granted in respect of inventions that concern uses of human embryos for industrial or commercial purposes and (Article 53(a), Rule 28(c) EPC 2000). However, we believe the research-based protocols used to develop stem cells into therapeutic cells, as well as the mature cells and tissues developed by these specific protocols, should be patentable (see also our position on stem cells).
  • We support the principle that the human body, at the various stages of its formation and development, cannot constitute patentable inventions (Article 53, Rule 29(1) EPC2000).
  • We support the principle that the industrial application of a sequence or a partial sequence of a gene for which patent protection is sought must be disclosed in the patent application (Article 57, Rule 23e (3) of the European Patent Convention).
  • We support the principle that patents shall not be granted in respect of inventions that concern processes for modifying the genetic identity of animals which are likely to cause them suffering without any substantial medical benefit to human or animal, or that concern animals resulting from such processes (Article 53(a), Rule 23d(d) of the European Patent Convention).

Our positions

We have formulated positions on issues of relevance to our business and our role as a global corporate citizen.