As the number of patent infringement lawsuits rise, more and more cases are making front-page headlines. One example is the case of Amgen Inc. and Transkaryotic Therapies Inc., which battled over erythropoietin (EPO) patents in the United States and the United Kingdom.
The stakes were high for Amgen. Its version of EPO accounted for more than half of its $2.4 billion sales in 1997, making it one of the largest-selling biotech drugs.
When Amgen filed its lawsuit in 1997 against Transkaryotic, it stated that the company infringed on three of its U.S. patents that claim an EPO product and processes for making it. Amgen sought to prevent Transkaryotic from making, importing, using or selling EPO in the United States.
The Massachusetts-based company, in turn, argued that its gene-activation technology developed for anemia did not infringe on Amgen’s patents. A judge disagreed and ruled in favor of Amgen.
While Transkaryotic is prohibited from developing the drug in the United States, a U.K. judge ruled that Transkaryotic had not violated the patent infringement and, thus, is permitted to sell the drug in Europe, where Amgen is likely to lose between $2 and $3 billion annually from that decision.
Another high-profile case in recent years involved the University of California (UC) and Genentech Inc. In 1999, UC and Genentech agreed to settle a patent infringement lawsuit brought by the university relating to the biotech company’s human growth hormone products.
Genentech agreed to pay UC $150 million and make a $50 million donation toward construction of the biological sciences research building at UCSF Mission Bay. It wasn’t all bad for Genentech. The company got a building named after it at the 43-acre research and teaching campus.