Supremes Take A Pass On Challenge To Patent Holders’ Payments To Generics
Patent holders seeking to settle patent infringement cases are breathing a little easier today as a result of yesterday’s decision by the Supreme Court not to review the ruling of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in Arkansas Carpenters Health and Welfare Fund v. Bayer AG (In re Ciprofloxacin Hydrochloride Antitrust Litig.), 05-2851-cv(L) (2d Cir. 2010) (“Cipro”).
The Supreme Court thereby leaves undisturbed the Second Circuit’s rule that payments by brand name pharmaceutical companies to generics in settlement of patent infringement litigation – pursuant to which the allegedly infringing generic agrees not to market its drug product prior to patent expiration – do not violate the antitrust laws unless the patent holder procured the patent by fraud on the Patent and Trademark Office or brought a baseless patent infringement lawsuit.
Notwithstanding a three-way split on this issue among federal courts of appeals, the Supreme Court was unpersuaded by petitioners’ argument to hear the case because such settlements allegedly cost government agencies and consumers billions of dollars per year in the form of higher drug prices.
The Cipro defendants argued that the issue was one of patent law, not antitrust law, and therefore the Supreme Court should not disturb the Second Circuit’s ruling on antitrust grounds. The Supreme Court apparently accepted the defendants’ argument, although it gave no reasons for denying review.