In what it called a "major breakthrough" for patent protection in Japan, Genentech on Monday said it has won a preliminary injunction in a patent case in Japan against Toyobo, a $4-billion textile and pharmaceutical maker.
On Monday, court bailiffs seized the drug t-PA at a Toyobo plant in Japan after the Osaka District Court ruled last week that Toyobo's sale of the drug infringed on Genentech's Japanese patent.
Toyobo had been manufacturing and marketing the heart-attack drug under license from Genzyme, a Cambridge, Mass., biotech company. Royalties from the drug's sales in Japan were not expected to make major contributions to revenues at either Genentech or Genzyme, but the case was called significant because of its implications for patents in Japan.
Genentech said it believed that the case was the first seizure of a product by Japanese authorities to protect a biotechnology patent. A more conclusive decision is expected this Wednesday, but the case could be appealed.
"It's a strong affirmation on the part of Japan's judicial system. It says to the biotech industry that strong patents will be supported by Japanese courts," Genentech Chief Executive G. Kirk Raab said in a telephone interview.
Stephen Raines, Genentech's vice president for intellectual property, said: "It's a major breakthrough for patent protection in Japan. It's very gratifying (to) get strong protection."
The decision was considered a disappointment for Toyobo, one of Japan's leading textile makers, which has been diversifying into biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.
Nancy Hsiung, a spokeswoman for Toyobo America, said that t-PA was one of Toyobo's first major pharmaceutical products and that it had invested in developing production processes as well as a marketing scheme for it.
Toyobo had originally signed a licensing agreement with Integrated Genetics, which was acquired in 1987 by Genzyme.