The Canadian Supreme Court has upheld a decision favoring multinational patent holders over their own startups through the case of AstraZeneca PLC and Apotec Inc. It has been suggested that decision may ease Nafta talks due to begin with the U.S. this year.
The ruling specifically allowed an appeal from the Canadian unit of Cambridge, U.K.-based pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca Plc, maker of a drug called Nexium. The dispute with Apotex Inc., a closely held Toronto-based firm that bills itself as the largest Canadian-owned pharmaceutical company, is over a generic version of the drug.
The decision is the latest from a Canadian court to reshape intellectual property rights and it effectively lowers the bar to receive and defend a patent in the country, tilting the playing field in favor of existing holders. While applauded by larger firms and industry groups, the ruling threatens to upend the domestic technology sector and undercut Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s aims of reshaping Canada as a leader in innovative industries.
The Supreme Court ruled that a current standard, known as the “promise doctrine,” goes too far because it allows for patents to be invalidated if an invention doesn’t do any of the things it promised.
The decision removes a potential spur in North American Free Trade Agreement talks, due to begin as early as August, by resolving an issue the U.S. had already flagged.
Apotex didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment