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Pharma cos fight pitched battle on patent turf

P.T. Jyothi Datta

Mumbai , March 7

The one-year-old product patent regime in India, it seems, is fighting fit.

Torrent has opposed the grant of a patent on Astra Zeneca's cholesterol drug Rosuvastatin, while Ranbaxy has filed for pre-grant opposition against Pfizer's anti-fungal drug Voriconazole.

Ajanta Pharma has opposed Eli Lilly's patent application on erectile dysfunction drug Tadalafil, and Cipla and Hetero have opposed Wockhardt's patent application on anti-bacterial drug Nadifloxacin.

Meditab Specialities has opposed the grant of a patent to the Gilead-Roche combine on its bird-flu drug Oseltamivir, patent attorneys told Business Line.

But this is just a peep into the argumentative world of pre-grants, with drug-makers fighting at least 100-odd such oppositions at patent offices across the country, a legal expert said.

A pre-grant opposition allows people to contest a patent application filed by a company at the patent office.

After hearing out the patent-holder and the opposition, the patent office eventually grants or rejects the drug firm's application for a patent.

Only recently, the Indian Patent office rejected Novartis's claim for a patent on imatinib mesylate, a cancer drug sold by it under the brand name Gleevec.

According to a patent lawyer, there are more than 40 pre-grant oppositions in Delhi, over 20 in Chennai, an excess of 15 in Mumbai, and a similar number in Kolkata.

In Delhi alone, Ranbaxy has about 12 pre-grant oppositions and Torrent about 15, he added.

Ranbaxy is also reported to be opposing Eli Lilly's patent application on Tadalafil and Torrent is opposing Astra Aktiebolag's patent application on a pharmaceutical formulation of ulcer drug Omeprazole, a lawyer said.

Mr Ramesh Adige, Executive Director of Ranbaxy, said: "We do not comment on specific issues. However, our intellectual property team makes a careful analysis on a case-to-case basis to examine and assess the use of the provisions available under the Indian Patent Law for pre-grant and post-grant opposition."

Admitting that pre-grant oppositions are being actively fought out at different centres, Calcutta-based patent firm S. Majumdar & Co said that it has filed over 40 pre-grant oppositions at patent offices across the country.

And Gujarat-based Torrent Pharma accounts for about 50 percent of these opposition cases, according to Mr S. Majumdar, patent attorney.

Related Stories:
First phase scrutiny to cover 3,000 drug patent requests
Demand perks up for IP experts in pharma sector
Avian flu drug: Who owns the patent?

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