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Patent Litigation in India has steadily increased over the last 2-3 years. Dramatic swift has been observed in the innovator’s perspective from the mere aspect of the invention to gaining patent protection for their respective invention. Patent owners have adopted an aggressive approach towards their patent protection and enforcing their proprietary rights as businesses, which are now well-positioned in the realm of patent litigation. The patent owners are not at all hesitant to challenge the validity of the patent rights of their rivals. There has also been a gradual increase in the understanding of complex patent infringement and validity issues.
We will now deal with some of the recent and important patent litigation cases in India.
Merck vs. Glenmark over “Sitagliptin”
On an interesting note, the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India on Special Leave Petition filed by Glenmark stayed the Delhi High Court order which passed an injunction against Glenmark for the generic drug Sitagliptin till 28th April 2015. Merck Sharp & Dohme filed an application for an ad interim injunction restraining the respondent/defendant Glenmark Pharmaceuticals from using its patented product Sitagliptin (Indian Patent No. 209816) at the Supreme Court. The Delhi high court conclusively held that all three ingredients (Prima facie, Irreparable injury, and balance of convenience) for passing the order of injunction were established by MSD and hence injuncted Glenmark from manufacturing and selling of Zita and Zitamet.
Ericsson vs. Xiaomi
In December 2014, Ericsson had filed a suit against Xiaomi in India for the alleged infringement of the 8 standard-essential patents. The Delhi High Court granted an ex-parte injunction on the sale, manufacture, advertisement, and import of Xiaomi’s devices.
Xiaomi claimed that its latest devices in the Indian market (as of December 2014), the Mi3, Redmi1S, and Redmi Note 4G, contained Qualcomm chipsets, which implemented technologies licensed by Ericsson. Xiaomi subsequently challenged the injunction before a Division Bench of the Delhi High Court, which issued temporary orders to allow Xiaomi to resume the sale, import, manufacture, and advertisement of its mobile devices subject to the following conditions:
- Xiaomi would only sell devices having Qualcomm chips.
- Xiaomi would deposit Rs. 100 towards royalty for every device is imported to India from the date of the launch of the device in India to January 5, 2015. This amount was to be kept in a fixed deposit for three months during the proceeding of the case.
Novartis vs. Cipla
In another patent litigation case, the Delhi High court barred Indian generic drugmaker Cipla from making or selling a generic copy of Novartis’s “Onbrez” by giving a temporary injunction to Novartis. Citing the famous Roche vs Cipla case, the court observed that Novartis has a strong prima facia case and as the validity of the patent is not seriously questioned, there is a clear way out to grant an injunction. Further, the court observed that Cipla did not provide any figures about the “inadequacy or shortfall in the supply of the drug.” Earlier Cipla launched its generic version of Indacarterol in October claiming “urgent unmet need” for the drug in India.
Without going conventional way, Cipla also approached the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) to exercise its statutory powers under Section 66 and Section 92 (3) to revoke Indian Patents IN222346, IN230049, IN210047, IN230312, and IN214320 granted to Novartis AG for the drug Indacaterol. Cipla argued on the basis of 3 main points i.e. “epidemic” or a “public health crisis” of COPD, unable to manufacture the same in India by Patentee, and high cost of a patented drug.
Vringo Vs. ZTE
In January 2014, Vringo and Vringo Infrastructure filed a patent infringement suit in the Delhi High Court against ZTE, over the alleged infringement of its patent IN200572.
In February 2014, the Delhi High court granted an ad-interim ex-parte injunction restraining ZTE from importing, selling, advertising, installing, or operating devices that comprise the infringing components. The High court also appointed local commissioners to inspect ZTE’s premises and instructed customs authorities to detain ZTE’s shipments that may contain such devices and to notify Vringo. In March 2014, ZTE appealed against the injunction, which was vacated on August 5 the same year with ZTE being ordered to deposit Rs. 17.85 crore to the court.
The suit is sub judice now. As of August 2014, ZTE had filed for the revocation of IN200572 on grounds of it not being innovative as well as for violating some statutory provisions under Section 64 of the Indian Patents Act.
Vringo vs. Asus
In April 2014, Vringo filed a patent infringement suit against AsusTek Computer Inc. in Delhi High Court. As per public updates issued by Vringo to its shareholders, Vringo has alleged the infringement of patent IN223183 entitled “Method and system for providing wireless communication using a context for message compression” by Asus in India.
Asus had claimed that in the context of IN 223183 it was using technology licensed to it by Google. In August 2014, Google filed a request to become a party to the proceedings.
Vringo had requested an injunction on Asus’ use of the technology in India. The injunction has not been granted yet. No further information about the lawsuit is publicly available.
SYMED Labs vs. Glenmark Pharmaceuticals
In another case of SYMED Labs vs. Glenmark Pharmaceuticals, Symed Labs Ltd. had sued Glenmark Pharmaceuticals Laboratories before the Delhi High Court for allegedly infringing two of its patents: IN213062 & 213063. The first patent was granted for “Novel intermediates for Linezolid and related compounds” while the ‘063 patent was granted for “A novel process for the preparation of linezolid and related compounds. While declaring the judgment on 9th Jan 2015, the judge convinced that Plaintiff has got a good prima facie case in favor of SYMED. Further, the judge decided that protection to the patent processes ought to be granted to Plaintiff as damages will not be an efficacious remedy. Thus, there will be irreparable loss and injury because of the long uninterrupted use of patents, the balance of convenience also lies in favor of the Plaintiff. Thus the judge granted an ad interim injunction restraining Glenmark from manufacturing, selling, offering for sale, advertising or directly or indirectly dealing in the production of Linezolid manufactured in a manner so as to result in infringement of the Plaintiff’s registered Patents.
Maj. (Retd.) Sukesh Behl & Anr. vs Koninklijke Phillips
In this litigation case, Sukesh Behl made a counterclaim for revocation of the suit Patent No. 218255 under Section 64(1)(m) of the Patents Act, 1970 (for short “the Patents Act”) for non-compliance with the provisions of Section 8. Earlier in another suit Koninklijke Phillips sought for permanent injunction restraining Sukesh Behl from infringing its patent and for other incidental reliefs. While delivering the judgment, the judge answered the question of whether the failure to comply with the requirement of Section 8 of the Patents Act would invariably lead to the revocation of the suit patent under Section 64(1)(m) of the Patents Act, the word “may” employed in Section 64(1) indicates that the provision is a directory and raises a presumption that the power of revocation of patents conferred under Section 64(1) is discretionary. Citing the Chemtura case, the judge holds that the power to revoke a patent under Section 64(1) is discretionary and consequently it is necessary for the Court to consider the question as to whether the omission on the part of the plaintiff was intentional or whether it was a mere clerical and bonafide error. Finally, the judge dismisses the plea of Sukesh Behl for the revocation of a said patent under section 64 (1)(m).
Enercon vs. Dr. Aloys Wobben
In this landmark decision, the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India addressed the multiplicity of patent proceeding cases with respect to Invalidation, opposition, and revocation. Dr.Aloys Wobben has filed around 19 infringement suits before the High Court and Enercon India Limited have filed around 23 “revocation petitions” before the Appellate Board, praying for the revocation of the patents held in the name of Dr. Wobben. The respondents had also filed “counterclaims” to the “patent infringement suits” filed by the appellant. Even though some revocation petitions have been settled by the IPAB, the same issues were being re-agitated by Enercon before the High Court. The Supreme Court of India following rules – firstly, if “any person interested” has filed proceedings under Section 25(2) of the Patents Act, the same would eclipse all similar rights available to the very same person under Section 64(1) of the Patents Act. This would include the right to file a “revocation petition” in the capacity of “any person interested” (under Section 64(1) of the Patents Act), as also, the right to seek the revocation of a patent in the capacity of a defendant through a “counter-claim” (also under Section 64(1) of the Patents Act). Secondly, if a “revocation petition” is filed by “any person interested” in the exercise of the liberty vested in him under Section 64(1) of the Patents Act, prior to the institution of an “infringement suit” against him, he would be disentitled in law from seeking the revocation of the patent (on the basis whereof an “infringement suit” has been filed against him) through a “counter-claim”. Clearly, this judgment laid a smooth road for complex patent litigation practices in India.
It would be interesting to note the developments that would take place in the Patent protection scenario in India and the gradual increase in patent litigation cases in India.