Case Update: Warner-Lambert Company LLC v Novartis (Singapore) Pte Ltd [2017] SGCA 45 – landmark decision on patent law

Warner-Lambert Company LLC v Novartis (Singapore) Pte Ltd [2017] SGCA 45

Significance: Landmark Singapore Court of Appeal decision on issues in patent law not previously considered before by the Singapore courts. The case involved two large pharmaceutical companies. These issues relate to the protection of subsequent medical uses of known substances and the validity of “Swiss-style” claims under the Patents Act. Warner-Lambert Company LLC’s appeal failed in this case. It tried to apply to amend its patent which was alleged to be invalid for claiming a monopoly over methods of treatment of the human or animal body, something impermissible under Singapore’s patent law as section 16(2) of the Patents Act provides: “An invention of a method of treatment of the human or animal body by surgery or therapy or of diagnosis practised on the human or animal body shall not be taken to be capable of industrial application.” The Court upheld the trial judge’s findings that the amendments, if granted, would extend the scope of protection of the patent and that there had been undue delay by Warner-Lambert in seeking the amendments which warranted the exercise of the court’s discretion to disallow the amendments.

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