Thursday, 23 July 2009

Bristol owns up, pays up

Today's Wall Street Journal reports on the disclosure by major originator pharma company Bristol-Myers Squibb that it has reached agreements to settle patent litigation stemming from its efforts three years ago to resolve a patent battle over its anti-clotting product Plavix.

In a regulatory filing, BMS explained that it had reached an agreement in principle this May to pay $125 million to settle lawsuits brought against it which alleged that, by failing to disclose material information about its efforts to settle the Plavix patent litigation, both BMS and its former chief executive had acted in breach of US securities laws. In 2006 BMS had reached a tentative agreement with its Canadian adversary, Apotex, which would have the effect of blocking Apotex out of the US market for a generic version of Plavix some years before the patent expired. That patent settlement unravelled after it became known that a BMS executive had concluded an oral side agreement, and Apotex briefly sold generic Plavix in the US before a judge ordered it to stop. While BMS eventually won its patent action, sales of Plavix suffered in result.

BMS has since pleaded guilty to federal criminal charges of lying to the US government about the proposed patent settlement, having agreed to pay a US$1 million fine in 2007.

It seems to PatLit that, in the US, patent litigation is in general far more publicised than in Europe, and that both its existence and its outcome have a more obvious bearing in the stock value and performance ratings of both patent owners and their competitors. One wonders, though, whether the requirement to disclose information concerning both actual and aborted settlements of patent disputes weighs on the minds of the parties to US patent litigation at the time they are contemplating settlement.

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