Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Philippines pharma patent litigation - Pfizer v Unilab & Therapharma

Pharma patent litigation in the emerging economies of SE Asia has up to now been quite limited. Thailand has seen a few cases. This is probably a credit to the existence of its IP/IT court, which since foundation in the late 90s has become the gold standard for a specialist IP court.  As a result of this and the presence of some quite technical invested industries there have been several patent fights there.

Elsewhere with less specialist courts, there is a clear nervousness about filing patent cases. Indonesia has literally seen only half a dozen small patent cases in the last 5 years, mostly local disputes and relating to ownership, revocation.

But in the Philippines one major case is slowly playing out. Pfizer brought suit against local generic companies Therepharma and Unilab over the Astorvastatin Calcium patents for Lipitor. The primary issue heard in 2010 by the Makati Regional Trial Court was whether a temporary injunction ought to be granted and it went to a first round of appeal (called reconsideration). The injunction was refused because a substantial question as to validity had been raised such that it was at least arguable that no injunction should be granted.

The question related to fact that two patents existed, one for the molecule which had expired, and another for the enantiomer (a mirror image variation). The defendant's claimed that the enantiomer was anticipated by the molecule patent.
IP litigation in the Philippines courts proceeds at glacial speeds. (Which incidentally is why the IP Office had to set up their BLA administrative litigation system, to take cases out of the courts).
IP Komodo keeps his lizardy ear to the ground and so hears more and more pharma companies talking abut patent litigation in SE Asian countries driven by the growth of these markets and their increasing economic potential.

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