Legal Business Blogs

Disputes round-up: Supreme Court loss for Pfizer as Mishcon’s Levitt QC returns to the Bar

Allen & Overy (A&O) client Pfizer has lost a landmark Supreme Court battle against a host of manufacturers, leaving it vulnerable to substantial financial claims.

In a judgment handed down yesterday (14 November), the Supreme Court upheld lower court decisions that Pfizer’s patent for its pregabalin pain relief product was invalid. Branded as ‘Lyrica’, the pregabalin-based drug is used to treat neuropathic pain as well as generalised anxiety disorder and epilepsy.

The patent was ruled invalid because it did not support the use of neuropathic pain, meaning that generic manufacturers such as Actavis (now called Allergan) and Mylan, who were respondents in the case, will now be able to produce their own pregabalin products.

The NHS also now has the right to claim against Pfizer, after incurring unnecessary extra costs for using the more expensive Lyrica brand rather than a cheaper alternative.

Linklaters IP partner Yohan Liyanage told Legal Business: ‘Secondary medical use patents such as these are very important for pharmaceutical companies, and the judgment indicated that the threshold for obtaining them is higher than previously thought. The decision makes it harder for innovative pharmaceutical companies to enforce the patents, so the NHS and generics are the real winners.’

Mylan was represented by Taylor Wessing in the dispute, led by partner Matthew Royle, while Actavis was advised by Powell Gilbert.

Meanwhile, Mishcon de Reya partner and white collar crime head Alison Levitt QC has announced she is leaving to join criminal defence set 2 Hare Court later this month.

Levitt QC, who took silk in 2008, founded Mishcon’s white collar crime team in 2014. During her time at the firm she conducted many murder trials, as well as the internal investigation of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan which led to the sacking of partner Mark Hastings due to ‘inappropriate behaviour’.

Mishcon partner Jo Rickards, who joined the firm in January 2017, will now lead the white collar crime practice.

Levitt QC told Legal Business: ‘Mishcon is an incredibly hard place to leave. The firm has wonderful people and a really exciting environment. But I needed to go back to being an advocate, which was not possible here.’

She added: ‘Jo Rickards is a natural leader and a great colleague, she is going to take the white collar team to the next level.’

Finally, City outfit Edwin Coe has become the latest firm to launch a group action claim on behalf of truck owners who were victims of a price-fixing cartel.

In July 2016, the European Commission (EC) found truck manufacturers MAN, Volvo/Renault, Daimler, Iveco and DAF had operated a 14-year price-fixing cartel. As a result, the EC fined the cartelists a record-breaking €2.93bn, aside from MAN, which under EU leniency rules received full immunity for revealing the existence of the cartel.

Edwin Coe is now urging businesses who purchased a truck between 1997 and 2012 to join its group action, which is being funded by litigation financier Affiniti Finance. The funding means that clients can opt-in under a ‘no-win, no fee’ arrangement.

In July last year, competition boutique Hausfeld partnered with litigation funder Burford Capital to finance UK claimants who wanted to pursue follow-on damages claims as a result of the cartel.

tom.baker@legalease.co.uk