As more of the patents behind some of the nation's most popular prescription drugs continue to expire in the coming months, the Supreme Court is already being asked to weigh in on intellectual property issues that may shape the competitive landscape of the pharmaceutical industry.
According to Reuters, the high court heard opening arguments earlier this week in the case of Caraco Pharmaceuticals and brand-name manufacturers behind the diabetes drug Prandin. Caraco contends that the medicine's registered patent description is too broad and may limit the potential for smaller firms to develop generic versions of the drug before its IP protections expire.
Caraco is seeking legal action to force Prandin producer Novo Nordisk to narrow its patent description with the Food and Drug Administration, thus allowing other companies to develop medicines with similar but distinct active ingredients. Government officials have submitted a brief to the court, according to Reuters, citing the significant economic advantages generic drugs offer to American consumers.
Although a ruling is not expected to come until mid-2012, this may be just one of several pharmaceutical cases that find their way to the Supreme court next year. According to NPR, big-name manufacturers are currently reviewing their IP portfolios and devising creative strategies to ensure continued success once popular drugs like Lipitor, Nexium and Plavix come off-patent.