The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia today ruled that Merial Ltd.’s U.S. patent on Frontline Plus is valid and that PetArmor Plus products infringe on the patent.
“We are in the process of filing an appeal,” said S. Radhakrishnan, chief financial officer of Cipla Ltd. “We believe that there is a good chance that we may be able to overcome this order. Obviously, we are not going to ship the product unless we overturn the order. From a business perspective, this is virtually a new business and from that perspective US $10 million is already done, and the future depends on how the order or the matter really pans out.”
Cipla officials say the company has sold $10 million worth of PetArmor products.
District Judge Clay D. Land ruled that Cipla Ltd. and Velcera Inc. were aware that their sales of PetArmor Plus products infringed on Merial’s patent. He barred the companies from further sales in the U.S. and ordered the seizure of the existing U.S. inventory.
Land found Cipla in contempt of a March 6, 2008, order prohibiting the company from infringing on Merial’s patents covering Frontline Plus brand flea and tick control products.
“We are pleased that the court recognized the contumacious nature of Velcera and Cipla’s conduct and prevented them from further violating Merial’s intellectual property rights,” said José Barella, executive chairman of Merial.
“Merial has invested considerable time and resources developing its flagship Frontline Plus products and is confident that Judge Land’s well-reasoned order will be affirmed.”
Frontline Plus is a topical flea-control product that combines of fipronil and methoprene.
Land said he will conduct a hearing to determine an award to Merial for damages, as well as the amount of monetary sanctions, including attorney fees and costs that may be appropriate based upon Velcera and Cipla's violation of the court's order. The judge stayed his order from taking effect for 60 days to permit appeal.
Merial declined to comment on whether it would pursue other potential infringements on its patent rights.
“We don’t share our litigation strategy, but we will continue to vigorously protect our patent rights,” said Natasha Mahanes, a spokeswoman for Merial, of Duluth, Ga.
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