Patent enforcement round-up in South East Asia

Date: 2014-01-31

As patent filings in South East Asia grow, patent enforcement activities will no doubt be on the rise in the region. We round up patent litigation and licensing in South East Asian countries reported in the past year or so.

Singapore: Litigation requires careful financial planning (Mobilestats Technologies v Attorney-General)

As widely reported in the media, the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) of Singapore was involved in an infringement case brought by MobileStats. MobileStats owns a Singaporean patent on a ”mobile first aid post” concept, which the inventors said was inspired by 9/11 events. In one form, the patented concept is a truck with a cargo hold which can store medical equipment and whose sides can open up to act as a canopy for medical personnel to treat the wounded. MobileStats separately received counterpart patents in a number of other jurisdictions including the US and Europe.

MINDEF reportedly orders and receives mobile Battalion Casualty Stations from its supplier, which MobileStats alleged constitutes infringement of its patent. According to a MINDEF’s statement on the Singaporean government website, the case is a commercial dispute between its supplier and MobileStats. The case was brought to an abrupt end just before hearing was set to resume when MobileStats reportedly withdrew its infringement claim due to a lack of funding. The withdrawal will likely see MobileStats forfeiting their Singaporean patent.

Malaysia: Court would not amend patent (Pfizer Ireland Pharmaceuticals v Ranbaxy (Malaysia))

The drug Viagra is marketed and patented by Pfizer in several jurisdictions including Malaysia, Europe and the US. Meanwhile competing generics maker Ranbaxy (Malaysia) produces and markets a drug Caverta reportedly containing the same active ingredients as Viagra.

Relying on Pfizer’s recently lost battle in defending its European patent before the European Patent Office, Ranbaxy (Malaysia) lodged court proceedings in Malaysia to invalidate Pfizer’s Malaysian patent. With the invalidity trial still pending, Pfizer sought the court’s discretion to amend the Malaysian patent to align with its US patent, which was recently held valid by a US district court. The High Court however refused to do so. Its decision was affirmed by an appeal court, which expressed that the court’s power to amend is limited to court documents and pleadings, not patents. Further, the appeal court considered the proposed amendment “certainly prejudicial” to Ranbaxy. The invalidity trial will continue based on Pfizer’s unamended patent.

Malaysia: Soy milk machine maker cleared of infringement on appeal (Ronic Corporation v Cadware)

Ronic owns a Malaysian patent on a sensor used in its soy milk making machines for detecting absence of water. Ronic was initially successful in bringing an infringement case against competitor Cadware for making and selling soy milk machines covered by its patent. Cadware appealed the initial infringement finding.

The appeal court criticised the first instance court for not considering a feature claimed in Ronic’s patent but missing in Cadware’s machines. The appeal court confirmed the use of “purposive construction” and the Improver questions when interpreting a patent. In particular, the appeal court considered the absence of the missing feature in Cadware’s machines as a variant that has a material effect on the way the invention works. Based on these reasons the earlier infringement finding was overturned, clearing Cadware of infringement.

Indonesia: Government issues compulsory license on AIDS and Hep B medication patents

The Indonesian Government has reportedly issued compulsory patent licences under a Presidential decree to give nominated generics makers the green light to make patented medication. The reported decree allows the Minister of Health to appoint generics makers to exploit 6 patents on AIDS and Hepatitis B drugs on the Government’s behalf. The licences were said to be issued in view of urgent needs of the Indonesian public for the medication. Thailand and Malaysia are among other South East Asian countries which had previously issued compulsory licenses on patented medication.

The various patents in question are held by drug makers Merck, Glaxo Group Limited, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Abbot Laboratories, and Gliead Sciences. In return, the patent holders are said to receive 0.5% royalty on net sales. Each license will last until the corresponding patent expires. One of the patents has a maximum term until 2024.