Delhi High Court dismisses six petitions of drug majors.

The Delhi High Court has put an end to the trend among pharmaceutical companies to take patent litigation directly to court without first approaching the Intellectual Property Appellate Board (IPAB), constituted to address such complaints.

Justice S Muralidhar today dismissed six petitions involving drug majors Eli Lilly, Ranbaxy, Cipla, UCB Farchim and Teva’s research arm, Yeda, against rejection of patents for drugs by the country’s patent office. He asked the companies to file complaints with the IPAB within two weeks.

“These six petitions raise an important question of law concerning the maintainability of a writ petition… to challenge an order passed by the Controller General of Patents either allowing or rejecting a pre-grant opposition filed under the Patents Act 1970,” the high court observed.

Three petitions were filed by Eli Lilly against Ranbaxy and Ajantha Pharma. Yeda approached the court on a patent rejection application on the basis of a pre-grant opposition filed by Natco Pharma. Colorcon and Ideal Cures were two other companies involved in similar litigations.

Legal experts presumed the verdict would put an end to the practice of avoiding an approach to the IPAB in the first instance, which was contrary to the intention of the law.

“There are about 20 such petitions dealing with pharmaceuticals and diagnostics that have been filed before the Delhi High Court. There are complaints before other courts also. Today’s verdict will have its impact on all such cases,” Cipla’s counsel Pratibha Singh said.

According to Singh, the verdict made it clear that companies could approach courts only after IPAB gave a verdict. Similarly, if a patent was granted by dismissing a pre-grant opposition, the company that filed the pre-grant opposition would have to apply for a post-grant opposition and not approach the court directly. If the post-grant ruling was also against the petitioner, the company would have to approach IPAB and then a court.