Lipitor patent gets U.S. thumbs-down

Oh, the tangled web of Lipitor patent claims and counterclaims. Today, Pfizer announced that the U.S. Patent Office has initially rejected the claims on the med's basic patent, which covers it through March 2010. It's the second Lipitor-related rejection since August, when the patent office said no go to Pfizer's request for a reissued patent to cover the drug through 2011. That patent was invalidated in 2006 in a dispute with India's Ranbaxy Laboratories, which is on a worldwide crusade to launch a copycat version.

Ranbaxy is behind this second patent-office action, too. The 2006 court ruling upheld the med's basic patent, so Ranbaxy asked the office to re-examine it--and that's the patent the office has now rejected.

Luckily for Pfizer, the patent remains in force as the agency reviews it. And, as Pfizer emphasized in today's news release, the rejection is only an initial response that starts a back-and-forth between the patent holder and the office.

Already, Pfizer has seen its Lipitor patent invalidated in Germany as part of Ranbaxy Laboratories' worldwide bid. Pfizer prevailed over Ranbaxy in Canada only to have a judge there decline to stop the launch of a generic by Apotex. Pfizer has announced its intent to appeal the Apotex decision.

- here's the release from Pfizer
- read the story from Forbes
- get more on the previous Lipitor rejection

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