The Madras high court today rejected a petition by Swiss drug maker Novartis AG challenging the validity of an Indian patent law that does not allow patenting of minor improvements in known molecules.
Novartis has contended that the Indian patent system stifles innovation, and had argued that tightening of intellectual property laws would increase investment in developing newer generation of medicines.
Earlier in April the High Court had reserved its verdict on the petition. (See: India court reserves order in Novartis patent case) The two-judge court had 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.
The court rejected the challenge by Novartis saying it had no jurisdiction on whether Indian patent laws complied with intellectual property rules set by the WTO, as Novartis had questioned.
In the past few years, several Indian pharmaceuticals manufacturers have developed low-cost generic anti-retrovirals, currently being used effectively in African and other low-income countries under WHO programmes, a development that global multinationals have regarded as a threat.
NGOs like Medecins Sans Frontieres say that millions of poor people could lose access to key drugs if Novartis succeeded in its challenge. (See: Novartis patent case a threat to developing nations: Medecins Sans Frontieres)
Reacting to the challenge by Novartis, health minister Anbumani Ramadoss warned Novartis in April that the government might be forced to overrule patents and resort to compulsory licensing to produce vital drugs in the public interest, as it was "very concerned" that the challenge by Novartis could restrict the global supply of cheap anti-AIDS drugs.
also see : Government
warns Novartis of compulsory licensing