A niche blog dedicated to the issues that arise when supplementary protection certificates (SPCs) extend patents beyond their normal life -- and to the respective positions of patent owners, investors, competitors and consumers. The blog also addresses wider issues that may be of interest or use to those involved in the extension of patent rights. You can email The SPC Blog here

Sunday 27 January 2013

Valsartan: France back in line with the rest of Europe

From our good friend Laëtitia Bénard (Partner, Allen & Overy LLP, Paris) comes some more fascinating and instructive material for our readers. Laëtitia (whose firm acted as counsel to Novartis in the Valsartan case, and to MSD and Du Pont in the Losartan case) writes:
Novartis v Actavis on the Valsartan SPC: the French Supreme Court has quashed the decision of the Paris Court of Appeals and has put France back in line with the CJEU and national courts in Europe by ruling that an SPC covering Valsartan confers the same rights as the basic patent and is infringed by a medicinal product comprising Valsartan in combination with another active ingredient

Further to a preliminary injunction rendered against Actavis on 28 January 2011, which ruled that Actavis' generic medicines containing a combination of Valsartan and HCTZ infringed the SPC of Novartis for Valsartan, the Paris Court of Appeals rendered a decision on 16 September 2011 inconsistent with the almost unanimous interpretation of the SPC Regulation across Europe on the subject matter and effects of an SPC, including France, reversing the preliminary injunction measures ordered in first instance.

On 15 January 2013, ruling on Novartis' appeal, the French Supreme Court quashed the decision of the Paris Court of Appeals, aligning at the highest level the French case law with the interpretation of the SPC Regulation by the CJEU in its Reasoned Orders of 9 February 2012 (C-442/11 and C-574/11), as previously did the Paris First Instance Court ruling on the merits on 8 June 2012 in the Losartan case (decision now final -- you can read the French decision of 8 June 2012 here and the English translation here).

The French Supreme Court ruled that an SPC covering Valsartan confers the same rights as the basic patent and is infringed by a medicinal product comprising Valsartan in combination with another active ingredient.

The main findings of the French Supreme Court are as follows:

"Whereas by order of 9 February 2012 (C-442/11), the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled and held to be law that Articles 4 and 5 of Regulation No. 469/2009 must be interpreted as meaning that, where a product consisting of an active ingredient was protected by a basic patent and the holder of that patent was able to rely on the protection conferred by that patent for that product in order to oppose the marketing of a medicinal product containing that active ingredient in combination with one or more other active ingredients, an SPC granted for that product enables its holder, after the basic patent has expired, to oppose the marketing by a third party of a medicinal product containing that product for a use of the product, as a medicinal product, which was authorised before that certificate expired;  

Whereas the decision considers, in order to dismiss Novartis' claims, that the litigious generic medicinal product, comprising Valsartan associated with HCTZ, does not constitute the same product as Valsartan, solely covered by SPC No. 97C0050, and consequently that it does not appear likely that any marketing of a medicinal product containing Valsartan as an active ingredient constitutes an infringement and violates the rights owned by Novartis over this active ingredient; 

Whereas, by deciding so, without considering whether the rights owned by Novartis on patent No. EP 0 443 983 would have allowed them to oppose the use of Valsartan, as a medicinal product, in the litigious generic medicinal products associating it with HCTZ, and whether, consequently, these generic products would infringe SPC No. 97C0050, covering, as the basic patent, Valsartan, and conferring to Novartis the same rights as the patent, the Court of Appeals rendered a decision without legal basis;".

This decision of the French Supreme Court is final.

You can read the French decision of the French Supreme Court here and the English translation here. 

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