labels: pharmaceuticals, novartis
India court reserves order in Novartis patent casenews
05 April 2007

The Chennai High Court has reserved its verdict on a petition by global drug maker Novartis AG against an Indian intellectual property right law that does not allow patenting of minor improvements in known molecules.

Novartis has contended that the Indian patent system stifles innovation, arguing that tightening of intellectual property laws would increase investment in developing newer generation of medicines.

The Madras high court has not fix a date when it would hand down its verdict on the on the Novartis petition. The two-judge court also ordered that another challenge filed by Novartis against a judgement rejecting its patent application for cancer drug, Glivec, be referred to an appellate board, comprising experts, but headed by a retired judge.

In recent years India has emerged as a major global supply source for quality generic medicines at a low price. NGOs, who say drug makers are putting patents ahead of the medicinal needs of the poor, feel patients with low incomes in the developing world could lose access to vital drugs if Novartis succeeds in overturning India''s patent laws.

India''s role as a source of cheap generic medicines, especially AIDS drugs, has been the bedrock of the medical assistance programme in sub-Saharan Africa, which has two thirds of the world''s HIV-positive population.

Medecins Sans Frontieres has said tens of thousands of people being treated for AIDS will suffer if the Swiss company succeeds in changing India''s patent law.

Last month, Daniel Vasella, chief executive, Novartis, said that Novartis was not looking to boost its popularity and would continue its legal action over the Indian patent system to "serve our patients and remain competitive".

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India court reserves order in Novartis patent case