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Patent ruling should benefit UK pharma

The House of Lords has upheld the patent on the Taxus stent - developed by the Canadian company Angiotech Pharmaceuticals in the early 1990s and licensed to Boston Scientific

The House of Lords has upheld the patent on the Taxus stent - developed by the Canadian company Angiotech Pharmaceuticals in the early 1990s and licensed to Boston Scientific. The stent is coated in the drug taxol, a mitotic inhibitor also used in chemotherapy, which helps prevent reconstriction of arteries after the insertion. The European Patent Office granted a patent to Angiotech on 25 June 1997. 

In the UK and the Netherlands Conor Medsystems applied to have the patent revoked on the grounds that the invention was obvious. The District Court of The Hague sided with Angiotech but the UK's Court of Appeal ruled in Conor's favour. Angiotech and Conor reached a settlement out of court in the UK, but the House of Lords proceeded with the case in order to address the matter of legitimacy of the original patent. This had been granted to Angiotech even thought the company had not demonstrated, at that time, that a taxol coated stent would be successful in preventing artery reconstriction. The House of Lords ruled in Angiotech's favour and determined that an invention need only have enough data supporting it to make it plausible. 

Mark Hodgson of Howery in London acting for Angiotech said: "The judgment is likely to have a significant impact on the future defence of patents subject to invalidity attacks because it has clarified both the definition of the inventive concept, and the test for obviousness which is to be applied to that concept". 

The ruling should benefit those defending patents in other areas of the pharmaceutical industry in the UK.

10th July 2008

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