Merck Wins Round in Hep C Patent Fight

In a partial victory for Merck & Co., a federal judge held Monday Gilead Sciences’ blockbuster hepatitis C-fighting drugs Sovaldi and Harvoni violate Merck patents, but the court left open Gilead’s ability to argue the Merck patents are invalid.

The order in federal court rejected Gilead’s motion for summary judgment and upheld a counter motion by Merck for a judgment that Gilead violated its patent.

Gilead went to market first with the interferon-free oral hepatitis C drug, for a drug expected to reach billions of dollars in sales.  Hepatitis C is an infectious disease that, if left untreated, leads to liver disease and is the primary cause of livery cancer.

Gilead won Food and Drug Administration approval in 2013 to market Solvaldi, an oral drug to treat chronic Hep C. and Harvoni.

Gilead filed suit in 2013 seeking a court declaration that the two drugs did not infringe the Merck patents. Merck countered there was ample data by 2002 that it had compounds that would treat the Hep C viral infections.

U.S. District Judge Beth Freeman sided with Merck and found“that there is enough evidence presented by Merck to demonstrated that someone skilled in the science would have accepted the utility of its patents.

Gilead did not contest Merck’s claims of infringement so the court granted Merck’s claim of patent infringement by Merck.  But Freeman pointed out that Gilead retains as a defense the claim that Merck’s patent is invalid. So she did not hold Gilead ultimately liable, rather that will be left to a jury.

Case:  Gilead Sciences v. Merck & Co. Inc., No. 13-cv-4057


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