Indian high court tells Patent Office to re-weigh Pfizer's Sutent

Is there a ray of hope for Big Pharma's brands in India? Maybe--but maybe not. Two months after officials pulled Pfizer's ($PFE) patent on the cancer drug Sutent, the Supreme Court says the Patent Office has to reconsider the case.

That's an opening for Pfizer to reclaim its Sutent patent. But there's more. When Pfizer appealed the Patent Office decision on Sutent to the nation's high court, the U.S. company won an injunction to prevent domestic drugmaker Cipla from launching a generic version. Now, the Supreme Court has lifted that injunction, the Times of India reports.

So, Cipla could go ahead and roll out its product. The Indian company, which instigated the Sutent patent challenge, hasn't shied from riskier launches. Cipla has been selling a generic version of Bayer's cancer treatment Nexavar for some time, despite the fact that it's fighting a patent suit with the German drugmaker.

In the meantime, both Pfizer and Cipla will be preparing for the Patent Office hearing. The Times quotes sources saying the case was remanded on procedural grounds, but the court's actual order hasn't been made public yet.

For its part, Pfizer welcomed the court's decision; as its Indian managing director told the Times, "The Supreme Court ruling is a welcome recognition of IP rights in India." Whether that recognition still stands after hearing is the question.

- read the Times story