High Court to hear Europe-wide patent dispute

Posted: 30th November 2012

In a ruling which underlines the growing expertise of the English courts in resolving international disputes, the High Court has accepted jurisdiction to hear a dispute concerning medical patents which are registered in France, Germany, Italy and Spain, as well as in England. To save legal costs and avoid a multiplicity of litigation, it was decided that the High Court was the appropriate forum to hear the case.

Eli Lilly and Company holds patents for a cancer treatment preparation called Pemetrexed which it has marketed under the brand name ‘Alimta’ in major European pharmaceutical markets since 2004. Rival pharmaceutical company, Actavis Group HF, has launched High Court proceedings, seeking a declaration that the marketing of Pemetrexed Dipotassium will not infringe those patents.RCJ

In a preliminary application, Activis argued that all proceedings relating to the patent should be consolidated and heard in London. It was submitted that this would enable claims relating to all five countries to be resolved at a single court hearing, with one set of lawyers on each side, using one set of factual and expert witnesses. The prospect of the courts of different countries reaching inconsistent conclusions would also be avoided.

Eli Lilly submitted that any saving in time or money would be outweighed by the cost and inconvenience of the court having to analyse the different provisions of four legal regimes by means of expert evidence. It was argued that differences in the approach of the various national courts were real and would be likely to lead to different outcomes.

Upholding Activis’ arguments that the High Court is the appropriate forum for the determination of the entire case, Mr Justice Arnold said that it was nowadays increasingly common for English courts to apply the laws of other EU member states, particularly in intellectual property cases.