Chinese court backs Pfizer patent for Viagra, fines two companies for infringement

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chinaSHANGHAI, China-A Chinese court has upheld the validity of drug maker Pfizer Inc.'s patent for Viagra, ordering two companies to stop sales of generic versions of the erectile dysfunction treatment and pay compensation for trademark infringements, a court official said Thursday.

The Beijing No. 1 Intermediate People's Court ordered Beijing Health New Concept Pharmacy Co. to stop sales of blue pills similar to Viagra, according to a court official who gave only his surname, Wang.

The court told Lianhuan Pharmaceutical Co., based in eastern China's Jiangsu province, to stop making the pills and to pay Pfizer 300,000 yuan (US$38,000) in damages, Wang said, confirming a report by the official Xinhua News Agency.

Pfizer sued Lianhuan and Beijing Health New Concept in Sept. 2005. It also sued Guangzhou Viaman Pharmaceutical Co., which produced another anti-impotence drug registered as "Weige" in 1998, Xinhua said.

However, the court rejected Pfizer's claim that Viaman had instigated the two companies to violate its patent and trademark, it said.

In June, the same court sided with Pfizer and overturned a 2004 decision by China's patent review board in ruling against local drug makers keen to sell generic versions of Viagra in China.

The case was seen as a test of China's willingness to protect patents, copyrights and trademarks. Pfizer welcomed the decision to uphold its patent rights, which remained in effect pending resolution of the dispute.

But it is unclear if the decision has dented the widespread availability of fake versions of the impotence drug. Bogus versions of the drug increasingly are showing up in other markets including the U.S. and Europe.

At least a dozen Chinese drug companies have been seeking the right to make sildenafil citrate, the main active ingredient in the erectile dysfunction drug, challenging Pfizer's exclusive right to the blue pill.

source - AP