Seminars promote patents

Cipla puts US law school on notice     

By Ankur Paliwal
Published: Monday 31 May 2010

a symposium organized in Delhi recently by the George Washington University in the US is the latest in the series of events to promote patent interests of pharma companies. One of the main sponsors of the event, US pharma company Gilead Sciences, made a presentation at the symposium on its drug used in aids treatment; the drug’s patent is disputed. Delhi High Court judges, invited to participate in a moot court, reportedly witnessed the presentation.

Indian drug firm Cipla sent a legal notice to the varsity asking for an apology, failing which it may file a court case. “It allowed itself to be used by a multinational pharma company to publicize its product and influence the Indian judicial process,” said Cipla’s attorney at M&M Legal Ventures. Gilead is fighting for patent over the drug Tenofovir in the Intellectual Property Appellate Board (ipab) and the Delhi High Court after the Indian Patent Office rejected its application last year. Cipla makes a cheaper generic version of the frontline drug for hiv/aids and has challenged Gilead’s appeal in both forums. Grant of patent to Tenofovir would block generic versions of the drug in India till 2018.

At the Intellectual Property Rights (ipr) summit in February, Gilead reportedly said the decision of the ipab would determine technology transfer partnerships with Indian firms. “The comment was a direct attempt to influence our IP laws,” said Leena Menghaney of Campaign for Access to Essential Medicines.

Dean of Law School of the George Washington University, Frederick M Lawrence, said he was surprised by Cipla’s allegations as the university is only one of the organizers of the academic symposium organized annually for seven years now. “We are reviewing the concerns Cipla has expressed,” he said.

Menghaney said the varsity had organized another such seminar last year, sponsored by Novartis whose patent for the anti-cancer drug Gleevec was rejected by the patent office in 2006. Novartis moved court challenging the Indian Patent Act that says new forms of old drugs are not entitled to patents. The United States Patents and Trademarks Office organized workshops in Delhi and Mumbai last year with Pfizer’s support, aimed at influencing Indian ipr laws, said Mira Shiva of Initiative for Health, Equity and Society.

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