SC admits Cipla’s plea for expert appointment in Hoffmann-La Roche patent row

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New Delhi | January 28, 2016 1:16 AM

In Nov, the Delhi HC, while holding Cipla guilty of infringing Roche’s patent over lung cancer drug Erlotinib, had held that its Erlocip violated the patent rights of Hoffman-La Roche

The Supreme Court on Wednesday admitted generic drug maker Cipla’s plea seeking appointment of a scientific expert in a non-small cell lung cancer drug patent row with Swiss innovator firm Hoffmann-La Roche.

A bench headed by Justice Ranjan Gogoi said it will decide if a scientist has to be appointed in the case on March 16. However, it allowed the Delhi High Court to proceed with certain aspects of the case, but restrained it from passing any final orders. The high court is still looking into how to dispose of the inventory and how much Cipla, India’s fourth-largest generic drug maker by revenue, has to compensate Roche for infringing its patent.

In November last year, the high court while holding the Indian company guilty of infringing Roche’s patent over lung cancer drug Erlotinib had held that its Erlocip violated the patent rights of Hoffman-La Roche, which had patented the basic medicinal compound and was marketing its own drug by the name of Tarceva.

The HC had, however, not issued any injunction against the continued manufacture of the drug by Cipla, after noting that Roche’s patent would expire in March 2016. Cipla was also directed to render accounts to Roche and make payment for the patent infringement. It had also imposed costs of Rs 5 lakh on Cipla to be given to Roche.

While Cipla’s drug, Erlocip, was launched in 2008 and cost around R1,600 per tablet, as compared to Roche’s Tarceva which cost around Rs 4,800 per tablet. Roche was granted the patent in India for erlotinib hydrochloride on February 23, 2007.

While Cipla was represented by senior counsel CA Sundaram and Pratibha M Singh, senior counsel Kapil Sibal and counsel Pravin Anand appeared for Roche.

Cipla in its appeal said that though there was no finding of infringement against it since the institution of  the suit, the impugned judgment has directed it now to render the accounts for the purpose of which the suit has been restored and Roche has been permitted to lead further evidence on accounts of profits.

While ruling in favour of Roche, the HC had noted that Cipla’s Erlocip, was one polymorphic form of the erlotinib hydrochloride compound, which may exist in several forms, and Roche’s patent claim was not limited to any one such version.

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