Gilead Released From Penalty Payment

Gilead drugs, sofosbuvir, Merck patent

The biotech giant is no longer accountable to pay Merck a sum of around $200 million

Gilead Sciences Inc. can now take a breath of relief as it is no longer under the obligation to pay $200 million to Merck &Co. A federal judge has reversed the earlier decision binding the biotech giant for the penalty payment in a drug-patent dispute. The decision was so reversed when the judge concluded that Merck showed misconduct during its patent acquisition.

The case in discussion was initially filed by the Foster City, Calif. firm in 2013 claiming the invalidity of Merck’s patent. The patent in question relates to an active component of Gilead’s blockbuster drugs –Harvoni and Sovaldi –dubbed as sofosbuvir. The drugs had had ground breaking sales and single-handedly gathered $19.1 billion for Gilead in the year 2015. During the primitive federal hearing in March, Gilead was subpoenaed to pay Merck an amount of $200 million as the two patents held by Merck and partner Ionis Pharmaceuticals Inc. were rendered valid. However, in the bench trial, presided by US District Judge Beth Labson Freeman, the biotech giant argued that the patent was received through misrepresentation.

The $116 billion company argued that back in 2004 Merck’s then patent attorney Philippe Durette came to know about Pharmasset Inc.’s in-progress development of an experimental hepatitis C drug code-named PSI -6130 through lies and misconduct. Mr. Durette had had a conference call with Pharmasset’s employees to learn about the ongoing research. He lied to the employees while gaining the information and posed as if he wasn’t the part of internal hepatitis C research of Merck.

Gilead claimed that the attorney used the knowledge received from the Pharmasset’s –which the company has now acquired for a sum of $1 billion –during the patent claim and hence wrongfully covering company’s technology in their patents.

In a 65 page order forwarded to Merck, Judge Freeman criticized the company for their misconduct and wrote that the former patent attorney involved in the acquisition was “dishonest and duplicitous.” She further wrote “Merck is guilty of unclean hands and forfeits its right to prosecute this action against Gilead.”

Mr. Durette’s comment, on the news, couldn’t be obtained.

Merck’s spokeswoman opined that judge’s ruling has ignored case’s facts and the company will appeal. She also added that the patent attorney –Mr. Durette –no longer works with the company. Whereas, Gilead’s spokeswoman expressed that the biotech titan has had a view that Merck’s patent claim is invalid and is very pleased by a favorable ruling.


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