Abbott hit with almost $2 billion final judgment in patent dispute

By Marilyn Tennissen | Dec 22, 2009

A final judgment of almost $2 billion has been levied against pharmaceutical company Abbott in an East Texas patent infringement case.

Centocor Ortho Biotech Inc. and New York University sued Abbott Laboratories, Abbott Bioresearch Center Inc. and Abbott Biotechnology Ltd. in the Marshall Division of the Eastern District of Texas on April 2007, alleging that Abbott's arthritis medication Humira infringed one of their patents.

A jury trial was held June 22-29 in Marshall. Jurors found that Abbott had infringed four claims of Centocor and NYU's patent and awarded the plaintiffs $1,168,466,000 in lost profits and $504,128,000 in reasonable royalties.

Abbott requested judgment as a matter of law or a new trial on the issues of enablement, written description, infringement and damages, but U.S. District Judge T. John Ward denied the motion. He did grant Abbott's motion that the infringement was not willful.

Ward then held a bench trial on the defenses of inequitable conduct, prosecution laches and indefiniteness, but denied those defenses in November.

On Dec. 18, Ward ordered that Centocor Biotech and NYU recover from Abbott a damages award of $1,672,594,000 in actual damages, and awarded an additional $175,641,661 in pre-judgment interest.

According to his order, Ward calculated the interest beginning at the issuance of the patent on July 4, 2006.

"Thus, the total awarded is One Billion, Eight Hundred Forty Eight Million, Two Hundred Thirty Five Thousand, Six Hundred Sixty One Dollars ($1,848,235,661)," the order states.

Judge Ward also severed the plaintiffs' continuing causes of action for future damages accruing after the jury verdict.

The patent in question, U.S. Patent No. 7,070,775 was issued to Centocor and NYU as co-assignees in July 2006, with Centocor as the exclusive licensee.

The patent claims antibodies and antibody fragments are useful in the therapy of a number of pathologies and conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis.

The plaintiffs alleged Abbott infringes the '775 Patent through Humira, which has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and is prescribed by doctors for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.

David J. Beck of Beck Redden & Secrest in Houston was lead counsel for Abbott.

Dianne B. Elderkin of Woodcock Washburn LLP in Philadelphia, Penn., is lead attorney for Centocor and NYU.

Case No. 2:07-cv-139
(Severed Case No. 2:09-cv-389)

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