UIC Institute for the Humanities

 Working Groups


Health and Society

2013-2014 Events

"The materiality of the brand: Form, function, and the pharmaceutical trademark"  Add To Calendar

Professor Jeremy A. Greene, Associate Professor of Medicine and the History of Medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
  • Date(s): Monday, 10/7 12:00 PM to Monday, 10/7 2:30 PM
  • Campus Address: Institute for the Humanities, Lower Level, Stevenson Hall
  • Address: 701 South Morgan Street
  • Location: Chicago, IL
  • Contact: Linda Vavra
  • Email: huminst@uic.edu
  • Website: http://huminst.las.uic.edu
  • Phone: 312-996-6354

After its patent expires, which qualities of a brand-name drug are still be considered to be private property?  Which parts fall into the public commons as fully copiable by generic competitors?

This talk explores the limits of patents and trademarks in the sphere of pharmaceutical intellectual property, and illuminates a century of controversy over the clinical, public health, and financial value of “look-alike drugs”: a set of generic pharmaceuticals that imitated their brand-name counterparts down to exact parameters of size, shape, and color.   

This dispute invoked thorny epistemological questions about pharmaceuticals as therapeutic technologies. Was the active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) the only public, knowable part of a drug, while other parts--binders, fillers, dyes, scores, and bevels—could be kept as trade secrets? Did these other physical parts of a pill bear some clinical function as well? Could the color of a capsule affect its therapeutic effects?  

Professor Jeremy A. Greene, Associate Professor of Medicine and the History of Medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, will present results of his ongoing historical investigation into the science, politics, and ethics of generic drugs.

This historical analysis sheds light on alternate regimes of monopoly in medicine that stretch well beyond the patent.

A light lunch will be provided for those who preregister for the program, at huminst@uic.edu.  Registrations will be confirmed.


Claire Laurier Decoteau, Sociology
Sandy Sufian, Medical Humanities and Disability Studies, and History



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