A drugstore sets up a poster to advertise its
inventory of Viagra in this March 25, 2005 photo. A Chinese court has
ruled the Viagra maker Pfizer should enjoy patent protection in China and
local firms are appealing the ruling.
Twelve Chinese pharmaceutical firms have launched an appeal against a court
ruling protecting US drug giant Pfizer's patent rights for Viagra.
In a last-ditch effort to protect their investment in Viagra-style drugs, the
firms yesterday handed their appeal to the Beijing High People's Court.
They are calling for a reversal of the June 2 court ruling which upheld
Pfizer's patent for its anti-impotence drug.
But the State Intellectual
Property Office (SIPO), which was ordered on June 2 to withdraw its decision to
invalidate the patent right of Sildenafil Viagra's active ingredient did not
appeal with the 12 companies yesterday, thereby missing the appeal deadline.
A date has not yet been set for the case, court sources told China Daily.
On June 2, the Beijing No 1 Intermediate People's Court ruled in favour of
Pzifer, after reviewing the case for more than one and a half years.
Yesterday, while expressing his disappointment in not having SIPO's support
in the appeal, Wang Wei, a lawyer representing the 12 pharmaceutical companies,
told China Daily: "We must try our best to protect our interests, no matter
whether SIPO will appeal with us."
The 12 drug companies, from Jilin, Shanghai, Anhui, Jiangsu, Guangdong,
Chongqing, Sichuan and Tianjin, claim to have invested over 100 million yuan
(US$12 million) in less expensive imitations of the famous blue pill.
Pfizer filed a patent application in May 1994 for the use of Sildenafil in
erectile dysfunction treatment in China.
SIPO granted the patent after seven years of examination, but the 12 Chinese
companies challenged the validity of the decision.
As a result, SIPO's patent review board invalidated the patent in July 2004
on grounds of "insufficient disclosure" of the invention, but the decision never
took effect as Pfizer launched an immediate legal challenge.
Pfizer's legal action against SIPO reached court in October 2004. The case
aroused widespread attention, although it was not the only case in which the
SIPO patent review board, a government entity, was in court for its decisions on
intellectual property rights.
Industry insiders pointed out that the huge potential profits of
anti-impotence drugs and dramatic clashes between domestic and overseas
pharmaceutical companies were the real causes of the dispute.
Chinese anti-impotence drugs, marketed under various names, are intended to
sell at less than 50 yuan (US$6.25) per pill much cheaper than Viagra, which
costs around 100 yuan (US$12.5) per pill in China.
It is estimated that about 80 million Chinese men suffer from erectile
If Pfizer finally wins the patent dispute, the Chinese drug producers will
have had their investment completely wasted, because they have never had the
right to sell their imitations approved.
Sources with Pfizer would not comment on the appeal yesterday.
In an earlier statement the US pharmaceutical giant welcomed the decision to
uphold its patent rights, saying it reaffirmed China's commitment to fostering
an effective patent protection environment.
The company believes the initial decision establishes China as a viable and
safe investment destination.
The appeal from the 12 Chinese pharmaceutical firms does
not provide any new evidence for their claim, but insists Viagra's patent manual
fails to provide convincing technical content.