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A Victory for Public Health

The Madras High Court has dismissed Novartis’ writ petition to declare section 3(d) of the Patents (Amendment) Act, 2005 as non-compliant with the World Trade Organisation’s Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (the TRIPS Agreement) and as “unconstitutional” for being vague, arbitrary and violating Article 14 of the Constitution of India. This is a significant victory for public health, not only in India but in many developing countries that import essential generic medicines produced by Indian pharmaceutical companies.

Section 3(d) of the Patents Act is aimed at preventing a common practice among pharmaceutical companies of obtaining patents on a new form of a known substance without bringing about any significant enhancement in the known efficacy of the substance. Such patenting, by denying the entry of generic competitors in the medicines market, extends the monopolistic power of the original patent holder. If such patents were to be granted in India, local pharmaceutical manufacturers would not be able to supply lower-priced generic versions, which would not only deny the majority of Indians access to affordable and essential medicines, but also the masses of many other developing countries that import such supplies from India.

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