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Chemical Products and Proportionate Patents Before and After Generics v Lundbeck

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In Generics Ltd v Lundbeck A/S [2009] UKHL 12, the House of Lords affirmed the validity of a patent for a chemical product – an isolated stereoisomer – supported by a method of producing the product, but protecting the chemical product as such independent of the method by which it was made. In so doing, it appears to have resolved a longstanding tension between granting patents for chemical products and requiring that the scope of monopoly rights equiperate with the disclosure in the specification. It also appears to have rejected the Biogen Inc v Medeva plc [1997] RPC 1 (HL) view of the balance to be struck between inventors and the public, and the commitment expressed by Lord Hoffmann in that case to promoting "research and healthy competition". However, their Lordships' decision is a limited one, applying only to single isolated chemical products. Further, their support for distinguishing categories of claims leaves scope for adopting a different approach with respect to other types of products. In this article I consider one such approach, consistent with the reasoning of the Biogen case, and focused on the purpose of the patent system and the impact of a patent on the relevant art. Such an approach has support in contemporary law, pre-1977 patent jurisprudence, and the intent of the European drafters themselves. Provided its aim is to ensure proportionate protection, any differential treatment across technological fields ought not to constitute discrimination within the meaning of TRIPS or UK patent jurisprudence. Indeed, such treatment may be required precisely to ensure a technologically-neutral patent system.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: October 1, 2009

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  • Until 2007 the King's Law Journal was known as the King's College Law Journal. It was established in 1990 as a legal periodical publishing scholarly and authoritative Articles, Notes and Reports on legal issues of current importance to both academic research and legal practice. It has a national and international readership, and publishes refereed contributions from authors across the United Kingdom, from continental Europe and further afield (particularly Commonwealth countries and USA). The journal includes a Reviews section containing critical notices of recently published books.
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