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Appeals court overturns J&J patent win

Abbott has won a patent battle with Johnson & Johnson's Centocor, overturning a 2009 federal court jury verdict that found Abbott liable for infringement

An appeals court has ruled in favour of Abbott in a patent battle with Johnson & Johnson's (J&J) Centocor, overturning a 2009 federal court jury verdict that found Abbott liable for infringement and awarded Centocor $1.67bn, the largest patent verdict ever in the US.

The dispute centres around two drugs that block tumour necrosis factor (TNF): Abbott's Humira (adalimumab), which was first approved in 2002 as a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis and is also marketed for five other autoimmune indications, and Centocor's older, similar product Remicade (infliximab). The original verdict was reached in June 2009 by a US District Court jury in Marshall, Texas.

Both drugs are major blockbusters: Humira brings in about $4.5bn in annual global sales and is Abbott's top-selling product. Global sales of Remicade, some of which go to Centocor's marketing partners, are about $6.2bn.

In the new decision, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington, DC ruled that Centocor's patent on Remicade is invalid.

"We are disappointed by the decision," Centocor president, Rob Bazemore, said in a statement. "We are considering whether to ask for reconsideration by the panel or by the court of appeals as a whole."

The disputed patent covers technology developed by New York University and licensed to J&J. Remicade is made with a combination of mouse and human antibodies, but J&J has argued that the patent also covers fully human antibodies against TNF like Humira. Abbott argued that the patent was invalid because it was not possible to make fully human antibodies against TNF in a laboratory at the time the patent was filed.

24th February 2011

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