Published Online: Friday, June 1, 2007

Legal experts are predicting that patents on branded drugs will become more vulnerable to generic competitors in the wake of a recent Supreme Court ruling limiting patent protection for combination products. The case in question involved a patent held by Teleflex Inc that combined 2 previously existing inventions: an adjustable pedal and an electronic throttle control. The Supreme Court invalidated the patent, reasoning that the combination of 2 existing products was too ?obvious? to justify fresh patent protection.

Branded drug manufacturers often seek to extend the patent life of their top-selling drugs by combining them with additional ingredients?a strategy that may become legally problematic in view of the Teleflex decision. In ruling on that case, the high court said that ?granting patent protection to advances that would occur in the ordinary course without real innovation retards progress and may, for patents combining previously known elements, deprive prior inventions of their value or utility.?

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