Merck notches another win in India patent battle over diabetes bestsellers

Everything is coming up roses for Merck ($MRK) in its patent battle with India's Glenmark Pharmaceuticals over copycats of the drugmaker's diabetes meds Januvia and Janumet, as the Delhi High Court barred the generics company from selling cheap knockoff versions of the drugs in the country.

Justice A.K. Pathak ruled that Glenmark's copycats are made by manufacturing a molecule patented by Merck, sitagliptin, directly violating the company's patents for its meds, LiveMint reports. Pathak told Glenmark to stop marketing and exporting its knockoff meds, and asked the generics maker to cover Merck's expenses from the companies' two-year-long litigation.

Unsurprisingly, Merck is celebrating the ruling, telling LiveMint that the company is "pleased that the high court of Delhi has found Glenmark to be in infringement of the patent on our sitagliptin products." But Glenmark is not going down without a fight. The company said that while it "accept(s) the honorable high court's decision" it is evaluating its legal options, Glenmark told LiveMint in an email.

The legal drama dates back to 2013, when Merck slapped Glenmark with a patent suit after the Indian firm said it would sell its versions of Januvia and Janumet, dubbed Zita and Zita Met, for about 1,200 rupees per month, or $22, a 20% discount to Merck's price. The generics are counted among the best-selling diabetes treatments in India.

Glenmark won an early battle when the Supreme Court of India told the company it could continue to sell its knockoffs despite the impending suit. But earlier this year, the same court granted Merck an injunction against Glenmark, preventing it from marketing a generic of Januvia as the patent case roiled on in court.

Since then, the victories have kept rolling in for Merck. In May, India's highest court blocked Glenmark from marketing its cheap versions of Janumet and Januvia in the country, saying it would allow Glenmark to continue selling its existing inventory but preventing future sales of the generics in India.

The latest court decisions contrast with India's usual patent rulings, which typically favor generics companies over Western drugmakers. Novartis ($NVS), Bayer and Pfizer ($PFE) have all felt the string of generics after India court rulings allowed generic makers to market cheap versions of top-selling meds. But there's been a sea change as of late after the election of pro-business Prime Minister Narendra Modi last year, and Western pharma companies are hoping that Modi can soften the country's position on patents.

- read the LiveMint story