Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Novartis and Cipla: Compulsory Licensing Trouble

Cipla had launched a low cost generic version of Novartis’ respiratory drug Onbrez. It has even demanded revocation of the Swiss giant’s patents on the grounds of public interest  (S. 66 of the Indian Patent Act) and granting compulsory licensing due to national emergency or urgency (S. 92). Novartis’ version of the drug was expensive and it is not worked locally. The drug was imported in very small quantities which were insufficient to meet the needs of the people.

Health Ministry is of the view that a potential compulsory license applicant must attempt to procure voluntary license from the patent holder which was not the case with Cipla. Novartis’ patent on the drug was not revoked. There was no case for Compulsory Licensing under S.92.
Novartis has filed a case against Cipla contending for infringing patents covering Onbrez. The drug is protected by 5 patents in India. In putting forth their cause, the Pharmaceutical giant contends that there is ample supply of Onbrez.

Novartis has also made a claim for Trade Mark Infringement. Cipla’s generic version (Unibrez) is deceptively similar to Novartis’ Onbrez which may cause confusion among the people. The Delhi High Court granted permanent injunction in Novartis’ favour. Cipla hopes to find a way out of this battle, by proposing to use the mark “Indaflo”, but of course nothing can be changed till the suit is on.

-Shambhavi Mishra