World Intellectual Property Organization

IP as an Instrument for Preserving a Market Niche Therabel Pharma

Therabel Pharma is an Argentinian SME set up in 1990 and devoted to the preparation of pharmaceutical and cosmetic products. Its clients include large local enterprises such as Bagó Laboratories and subsidiaries of multinational companies such as Gillette, Roche, Revlon and Unilever. Around 2000, its annual turnover stood at US$2.4 million, and it employed 84 people. Currently, the number of workers has increased to more than 100.

In 2001, the firm received a prize from the Investment Foundation for the installation of new equipment on line with the state of the art and the modernization of its plant located in Ramos Mejía, Buenos Aires province. The investment made reached US$1.8 million. The new equipment allows Therabel Pharma to produce the latest drugs and to use polymers for the launch of biologically active substances used to treat diseases such as diabetes and various ophthalmic pathologies. Similarly, the company is working to develop an anti-depressant drug which is produced from a medicinal plant grown locally.

An important fact to be highlighted is that the President of the firm Marcelo Nacucchio worked previously as a researcher in the public science and technology system. Having obtained an innovative product in the development of his research activities, he sought support from the institutions to which he belonged in order to set up a company based on his invention. However, he did not obtain the anticipated support and, for that reason, decided to establish the firm in question by himself.

Given the characteristics of its emergence, Therabel Pharma recognizes that it is by means of innovation that small and medium-sized enterprises must compete with large firms and the subsidiaries of foreign companies in the local market. Managers from the firm consider that niches exist which, since they are attractive to local SMEs, are characterized by the fact that they represent a reduced market and do not therefore arouse the interest of larger-scale firms. In this regard, the firm recognizes that by means of intellectual property protection for new products and processes, it is possible to preserve a position in the local supply of drugs.

However, the firm’s experience in using the patent system is still in formative stages. It has filed applications for a number of patents, which are in progress, including in the United States and Europe. In these markets, Therabel Pharma is seeking to patent its developments and to license them to local companies responsible for marketing.1

Case taken from the WIPO publication: Intellectual Property in Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises: The Case of Argentina”. See the WIPO electronic bookshop.

1 For example, a Dutch firm is marketing one of its products in Europe and South East Asia, while two American companies cover the American market.

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