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Apex court wants expert member on patent board

Submitted by on Tuesday, 30 September 2008No Comment

The Supreme Court on Tuesday suggested that the Centre should consider having an expert member on the Intellectual Property Appellate Board (IPAB) that reviews decisions of the Indian patent office.

Hearing the case, Justice SH Kapadia and Justice B Sudershan Reddy suggested that the central government should consider the appointment of a fresh technical member to hear the first case pending before the recently constituted IPAB. The government is expected to submit its response on Friday.

The case went to the apex court after the Madras High Court had asked the government to hear an appeal from Swiss pharmaceutical major Novartis against the rejection of a patent for its cancer medicine Glivec, without the panel having an expert member.

In response, Natco Pharma, the key opponent in the Glivec patent case, moved the Supreme Court last December. In January, Natco secured an interim stay order on the HC verdict. The company’s position is that a ‘technical member’ is a must on the panel.

The litigation is an offshoot of the country’s first and most discussed patent fight initiated by Novartis against the rejection of patent protection for Glivec in the country.

In November 2007, the Madras High Court approved a government suggestion to allow IPAB to go ahead with the patent rejection hearing case on Glivec without a technical member.

The HC ruling was based on a Novartis petition which said that S Chandrasekaran, former patent controller, during whose term the Glivec patent was rejected, should not be the technical member when the appeal comes for hearing. The other two members in IPAB are legal experts — chairman Justice M H S Ansari and vice-chairman Z S Negi.

Novartis’ Glivec has been the most high-profile litigation since late 2005, as it was the first global blockbuster drug that failed to receive market protection under the changed patent laws in India.

In January 2006, the patent office had rejected Novartis’ patent application on Glivec. Following this, the Swiss company approached the Madras HC challenging the decision.

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