The law of patent in India could not be developed on the artful drafting of claims by companies rather than on the intrinsic worth of invention, the Supreme Court has ruled, rejecting Novartis’ claim for patent for its cancer drug.

A Bench of Justices Aftab Alam and Ranjana Desai said, “We certainly do not wish the law of patent… to develop on the lines where there may be a vast gap between the coverage and the disclosure under the patent; where the scope of the patent is determined not on the intrinsic worth of the invention but by the artful drafting of its claims by skilful lawyers; and where patents are traded as a commodity not for production and marketing of the patented products but to search for someone who may be sued for infringement of the patent.”

The Bench noted that in the United States, ‘Gleevec’ came to the market in 2001, and what was marketed then, beyond doubt, was Imatinib Mesylate. “On its package, the drug was described as ‘Imatinib Mesylate Tablets 100 mg’ and it was further stated that “each film coated tablet contains: 100 mg Imatinib (as Mesylate).” If that be so, and the [appellant’s] claim for patent for the beta crystalline form of Imatinib Mesylate would only appear as an attempt to obtain patent for Imatinib Mesylate, which would otherwise not be permissible in this country.”

The Bench said, “Since the grant of the Zimmermann patent, the appellant has maintained that Gleevec [Imatinib Mesylate] is part of the Zimmermann patent. It obtained drug approval for Gleevec on that basis.

It claimed extension of the term of the Zimmermann patent for the period of regulatory review for Gleevec, and it successfully stopped NATCO Pharma Ltd. from marketing its drug in the U.K. on the basis of the Zimmermann patent.”

“Not only the appellant but the U.S. Board of Patent Appeals, in its judgment granting patent for the beta crystalline form of Imatinib Mesylate, proceeded on the basis that though the beta crystal form might not have been covered by the Zimmermann patent, the Zimmermann patent had the teaching for the making of Imatinib Mesylate from Imatinib and for its use in a pharmacological compositions for treating tumours or in a method of treating warm-blooded animals suffering from a tumoral disease. We thus find no force in the submission that the development of Imatinib Mesylate from Imatinib is outside the Zimmermann patent and constitutes an invention as understood in the law of patent in India.”

The Bench dismissed the appeal filed by Novartis and allowed the appeals filed by NATCO Pharma and Cancer Patients Aid Association.