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Israel's IP war of words

The Israeli government's minister of industry, trade and Labour, Eli Yishai, strongly denies accusations from Teva Pharmaceuticals that he is seeking to change the Intellectual Property Law in the region

The Israeli government's minister of industry, trade and Labour, Eli Yishai, has strongly denied accusations from generic drug manufacturer Teva Pharmaceuticals that he is seeking to change the Intellectual Property Law in the region.

Teva has accused Yishai of considering giving better terms for multinational pharmaceutical companies at the expense of domestic generic drug companies.

In a press statement, Yishai said: "I have not yet made up my mind. The process has only just begun, and I reject all attempts by Teva to influence the decision through the media."

The current argument concerns the expiry of drug patents and the development, production, and marketing of generic equivalents in Israel and their export to other countries. A second issue is how much the Ministry of Health can assist Israeli companies with information about drugs made by multinational pharmaceutical companies.

Yishai met officials of the US Trade Representative (USTR) and representatives of several Israeli pharmaceutical companies in October 2007. Later, a number of delegations of multinational pharmaceutical companies visited Israel, with Merck KGaA signing a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to invest in Israel start-ups.

According to local media reports, Yishai said that changing the IP Law would encourage more multinational pharmaceutical companies to invest in Israel. But Yishai denies promised anything to the foreign companies at the meeting.

Yishai has been accused of ordering the establishment of the inter-ministerial team to review the patent law. Representatives from the Ministries of Finance, Health, Justice, and Industry will participate.

Both Teva and the Ministry of Health claim that the purpose of the committee is to change the law.

30th September 2008

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