Today I am truly proud of the patent system. The block-buster drug Zocor (simvastatin) has transitioned off-patent and into the world of generics. Unlike other areas of IP law, patents really are valid only for “limited Times” and when those years have passed the property right evaporates — leaving the inventions “free as the air to common use.” (In the words of Justice Brandeis).
There is no question that patent rights played a major role in providing incentive to Merck to develop and test Zocor and to push it through the difficult FDA approval process. The incentive worked, Merck recouped its investment, and now generic versions will be sold at an unbelievably low price that is very near its production costs.