The introduction of pharmaceutical product patents in India and other developing countries is expected to have a significant effect on public health and local pharmaceutical industries. This paper draws implications from the historical experience of Japan when it introduced product patents in 1976. In Japan, narrow patents and promotion of cross-licensing were effective tools to keep drug prices in check while ensuring the introduction of new drugs. While the global pharmaceutical market surrounding India today differs considerably from that of the 1970's, the Japanese experience offers a policy option that may profitably be considered by India today. The Indian patent system emphasizes the patentability requirement in contrast to the Japanese patent policy which relied on narrow patents and extensive licensing. R&D by local firms and the development of local products may be promoted more effectively under the Japanese model.