noun \ păt’nt \ a right granted by a government to an inventor to use or sell an invention for a period of time

When a pharmaceutical company develops a new active ingredient it is given a patent, during which no other company can manufacture and sell a medicine containing the same active ingredient.

Once a patent expires, other companies can develop their own version of the medicine — these are known as generic brands.

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A diagram illustrating the role of patents in medicines and why we have Generic as well as branded medicines. The branded medicine is represented by a locked padlock, signifying the protection of the intellectual property of the medicine for up to twenty five years. The intellectual property of the medicine is protected by patent because: it is an original product and chemical; and it has significant investments in research and development, clinical trials and marketing. The generic medicine is represented by an unlocked padlock, signifying an expired patent. The generic medicine will have a different brand name but identical manufacturing standards; different packaging but is of the same quality; different shape and size but has the same effect in the body; and is approved by The Therapeutic Goods Association. Both branded and unbranded medicines have the same active ingredient and work the same.