Court ditches $1.8B verdict against Abbott

The U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., has decided that Abbott Laboratories doesn't have to pay $1.8 billion for violating a Johnson & Johnson patent when it developed its big-selling rheumatoid arthritis drug Humira.

It was a record-breaking patent-infringement judgment, awarded by a jury in a Marshall, Texas, court and widely seen as friendly to patent-infringement plaintiffs. That jury determined Abbott had followed J&J's patented antibody process to develop Humira. But as the Wall Street Journal reports, the appeals court disagreed, saying that the two companies had used different development strategies--and produced different antibodies as a result.

What's more, the court ruled that J&J's patent claims were invalid, so they couldn't be infringed anyway. Abbott was "pleased" with the verdict, of course. A spokeswoman told Reuters, "The evidence clearly showed that Abbott was first to invent a fully human anti-TNF antibody, Humira."

Understandably, J&J wasn't happy. "We are disappointed by the decision," Rob Bazemore, president of the company's Centocor unit, said in a statement. "We are considering whether to ask for reconsideration by the panel or by the court of appeals as a whole."

- see the J&J statement
- get the WSJ story
- read the article from Reuters