Hyderabad: Natco Pharma Ltd, the key opponent in the Glivec patent suit filed by Swiss-drug maker Novartis AG at India’s Intellectual Property Appellate Board or IPAB, is exploring all legal options to counter a 13 November ruling of Madras High Court. The ruling states that the board can hear Novartis’ appeal against rejection of its patent application, without having a technical member.
The court, after hearing a petition by Novartis challenging the appointment of former controller general of patents S. Chandrasekharan as technical member on the IPAB panel, had last week accepted the Central Government’s suggestion to revise the board by removing the technical member.
Rajeev Nannapaneni, chief operating officer, Natco Pharma, said, “We are awaiting the copy of the judgement and will make an appropriate move after studying it in detail. We are convinced it will be difficult for the board to take a proper decision on this appeal without an expert on the panel, since the matter is too technical and complicated.”
Novartis’ appeal to the board in April was to challenge a 2006 decision of the Chennai patent office that rejected the company’s patent application for its blood cancer drug Glivec. Since the board did not have a patent expert on its panel to hear such cases, the central government had, in May, appointed the former patent controller on the board as a technical member on the panel, in addition to two existing members.
However, Novartis expressed concern it would not be treated fairly, since the new technical member was in charge of India’s patent offices at the time when the company’s application was rejected. Novartis, therefore, filed a petition in the Madras High Court questioning his appointment. During the hearing of this petition, the Central Government had suggested it was ready to revise the board structure by making it a two-member bench consisting of a chairman and vice-chairman, instead of the official three-member panel structure.
In its judgement last week, the court also ruled that the chairman could also act as a technical member of the bench. Natco is currently the leader in the Rs40 crore market for this cancer drug in India. Other domestic sellers of the drug, such as Ranbaxy Laboratories Ltd, Cipla Ltd and Sun pharmaceutical Industries Ltd, are also opposing Novartis’ move to patent it here.
Novartis’ application for the patent was rejected on the ground that the drug is only a modified form of a known chemical compound.