A Danish pharmaceutical company is bracing itself for the imposition next week of heavy fines by the European Commission – on what the company claims is unreasonable grounds. Lundbeck, one of several firms caught up in anti-trust investigations in the wake of the Commission’s 2008 pharmaceutical sector inquiry, believes it will be the first victim of a push by Joaquín Almunia, the European commissioner for competition, to limit patent-holders’ rights to settle litigation out of court.
“Intellectual property rights should not be ruthlessly ignored,” a spokesperson for the company told European Voice. The company argues that in its determination to rule that the company has breached competition law, the Commission is moving the goalposts.
After receiving a response from Lundbeck to its initial statement of objections, the Commission modified its accusations. But its revised statement modifies the initial objections, and raises issues and draws conclusions that the company strongly contests.
The case dates back to an inspection of Lundbeck’s premises by officials in 2005, which led to formal allegations in July 2012 that the company had reached illegal agreements in 2002 with four companies to dissuade them from marketing generic copies of one of its leading products. Lundbeck insists that it was within its rights to reach these agreements, which lasted for between ten and 21 months, while awaiting the outcome of key patent-related issues then subject to litigation.
The European pharmaceutical industry recently called for “a fuller policy debate at the level of the college of commissioners before the competition department sets the law in this important area”.