Published Online: Saturday, April 1, 2006

The availability of generic drugs could decrease, and their costs may rise, due to a new US Supreme Court ruling that makes it more difficult for small companies to challenge anticompetitive practices by well-financed patent holders. For >50 years, the courts have held it to be automatically illegal for the owners of a patented product to force their customers to also buy a second product. In relaxing those restrictions on antitrust violations known as "tying arrangements," the high court ruled that plaintiffs must prove that the patent holder has "monopoly power" before such restrictions can be considered illegal.

Although the case before the Supreme Court involved ink for industrial printers, legal experts believe the precedent could affect patent litigation involving many other products, including pharmaceuticals.

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