J&J wins record setting $1.6B in patent case against Abbott

Marilyn Tennissen Jul. 9, 2009, 8:34am

A unit of Johnson & Johnson recently won what some experts are saying is the biggest award for patent infringement ever issued by a jury.

A federal jury in Marshall awarded $1.6 billion to the Centocor Ortho Biotech division of Johnson & Johnson on June 29 over a patent dispute with Abbott Laboratories.

The jury determined that Abbott had infringed a Centocor patent in the making of its arthritis drug Humira. Bloomberg called the $1.16 billion in lost profits and $504,128,000 in reasonable royalties the "largest patent verdict in U.S. history."

At issue was U.S. Patent No. 7,070,775 for a Recombinant A2-Specific TNF Specific Antibodies issued July 4, 2006. The technology was developed by New York University and Centocor and assigned to Centocor as exclusive licensee.

The '775 Patent covers the use of antibodies and antibody fragments that bind Tumor Necrosis Factor in the therapy of a number of conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis.

In a suit filed April 16, 2007, in the Marshall Division of the Eastern District of Texas, Centocor alleged Abbott's medication Humira, a monoclonal antibody that binds the TNF protein, infringes the '775 Patent.

A trial began June 22 in Marshall, with U.S. District Judge T. John Ward presiding. Centocor asked the jury to award $2.1 billion in royalties and lost profit.

Jurors deliberated about five hours on June 29. It answered that Centocor proved by a preponderance of evidence that Abbott infringed claims of the '775 Patent and that the company proved by clear and convincing evidence that Abbott's infringement was willful.

Abbott had argued that Humira was completely different from Centocor's product Remicade, and also contended that the '775 Patent did not cover the specific antibodies that are used in Humira.

Furthermore, Abbott said the patent was invalid because scientists were not even able to create the antibodies against TNF in a laboratory in 1994, which was established by the court as the date of the invention covered by the '775 Patent.

Attorneys for plaintiff Centocor include Dick Sayles, Dianne Elderkin, Barbara Mullin and Steven Maslowski.

Defense attorneys for Abbott included David Beck, William Lee, Gil Gillam, Amy Wigmore and Bill McElwain.

J&J has said it isn't seeking to block sales of the drug, only to get a share of the sales, Bloomberg reported.

According to Bloomberg data, the previous record for a patent verdict was a 2007 decision in which a federal jury told Microsoft Corp. to pay $1.52 billion over a patent owned by Alcatel-Lucent SA. A judge later threw out the verdict, and an appeals court upheld that decision.

Centocor Inc. vs. Abbott Laboratories, Case No. 2:07-cv-139-TJW

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