Evergreening patents: The Indian Supreme Court rejects patenting of incremental improvements

On April 1, 2013, the Supreme Court in India handed down its decision to dismiss Swiss drug maker Novartis AG's attempt to win patent protection for its cancer drug Glivec. In doing so, the Supreme Court held that incremental improvements or modifications to an existing drug are not patentable under India’s patent laws. While the ruling may have allowed India to maintain its ability to manufacture generic drugs, the ruling has increased the challenges that pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies face in obtaining patent protection in India. In the long term, these challenges may prove to have far greater implications for the biotechnology industry that go beyond merely the patentability of one drug product. In view of this recent decision, pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies are undoubtedly re-evaluating their foreign patent strategies.

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