Thursday, December 13, 2007

Roche’s Valganciclovir Patented in India

Chennai Patent Office lately granted an Indian Patent No. 207232 to Hoffman-La-Roche for antiviral drug Valganciclovir against the mail-box Application No. 959/MAS/1995 filed July 27, 1995 under section 5(2) of the Patents Act, 1970. Interestingly, the application claims its earliest priority dated July 28, 1994 (pre-1995) probably making Valganciclovir the first pre-1995 drug compound to be patented in India. Generally, there is an unanimous understanding among the Indian pharma patent practitioners and generic companies that only post-1995 drug molecules are eligible for patent protection in India although it is not explicitly been mentioned anywhere in the Patents Act, 1970. This would, in fact, definitely going to be an interesting case, let see what Indian pharma patent experts has to say about this? Coming back to Great Indian Patent Show, Valganciclovir patent application, like most of the antiviral drug applications was opposed during the pre-grant opposition, this time by the Mumbai-based NGO Lawyers Collective, but surprisingly the Chennai Patent Office decided not giving the opponent an opportunity for hearing and proceeded with the examination and grant of a patent. Lawyers Collective has already expressed their dismay over the issue and is planning moving to the Chennai High Court against the discriminatory decision of the Chennai Patent Office. But the Chennai Patent Office firmly stated that the patent is granted looking at the merits in the application and statutorily the Patent Offices are not bound to hear pre-grant opposition. Although I do want to comment over the whole episode, but I do appreciate the bold initiative taken by the Chennai Patent Office to proceed with the application. I believe it would be better that we should leave such issues to our learned Judges to decide what Patent Offices are supposed or not supposed to do, particularly during pre-grant opposition period?

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