On 1 July 2010, the General Court upheld the majority of the Commission’s 2005 decision to fine pharmaceutical company, AstraZeneca, for abuses of a dominant position. AstraZeneca challenged the Commission’s findings that, between 1993 and 2000, it had breached EU competition rules by blocking or delaying market access for generic versions of its ulcer pill, Losec, and in respect of its conduct related to the deregistration and re-launch of its product in Denmark, Norway and Sweden. In its judgment, the General Court upheld the finding that the drug company had deliberately misled patent authorities when applying for patent extensions in order to keep generic products out of the market. The General Court also confirmed the finding that the company was pursuing an anti-competitive strategy in deregistering the Losec capsule marketing authorisations in Denmark, Norway and Sweden and then launching a new Losec product in those countries. In essence, the competition concern was that the regulatory procedures may not be used in a manner that prevents or hinders access to competitors. However, the General Court found that the Commission had not sufficiently proven that deregistration of the Losec capsule marketing authorisation was capable of restricting parallel imports. Consequently, the Court reduced the fine from €60m to €52.5m. The case will raise difficult issues for the pharmaceutical industry about how to legitimately protect intellectual property rights without falling foul of competition law.
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Astrazeneca patent misuse case largely upheld
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