Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Breather for Novartis on blood patent row, SC stays High Court order [Patents - India]

The Supreme Court on Monday stayed the recent Madras High Court order that had ruled that the Intellectual Property Appellate Board can hear Novartis’ patent rejection appeal without a technical committee.

The IPAB, which was scheduled to hear the Novartis appeal on Monday, adjourned the hearing following the stay order. Natco Pharma had appealed to the Apex Court against the Madras HC ruling saying that a fair decision on the Novartis appeal cannot be taken without a technical expert on the board. Other leading domestic drug makers such as Ranbaxy Laboratories, Cipla and Sun Pharmaceuticals and several patient groups are also opposing Novartis’ move to patent its blood cancer drug Glivec in the country.

Following an appeal by Swiss drug major Novartis over the appointment of former controller general of patents S Chandrasekharan as technical member on the IPAB panel, the Madras High Court ruled that a two-member bench consisting of a chairman and vice-chairman, can hear the appeal instead of the official three-member panel.

The court ruled that the chairman could also act as a technical member of the bench. Novartis raised concerns on the appointment of Mr Chandrasekharan as the technical member and said that its appeal would not be treated fairly since Mr Chandrasekharan was in charge of India’s patent office when the company’s patent application was rejected.

The government had appointed the former patent controller on the board as a technical member in the absence of an expert. Novartis patent for its blockbuster drug Glivec was turned down by the Indian patent office on the grounds that it is a modified form of a known chemical.

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