Eli Lilly Claims Canadian Patent “Utility” Doctrine, Divergence from Other Nations’ Patent Standards, and “Favoring” of Generics Violate Its NAFTA-Granted Property Rights
By Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch
In November 2012, Eli Lilly and Company initiated formal proceedings under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to attack Canada’s standards for granting drug patents, claiming that the invalidation of a patent violated three special investor privileges granted by the agreement. The investor privileges provisions included in NAFTA and other U.S. “free trade” agreements (FTAs) empower private firms to directly challenge government policies before foreign tribunals comprised of three private-sector attorneys, to claim that the policies undermine investors’ “expected future profits,” and to demand taxpayer compensation. Eli Lilly’s NAFTA investor-state challenge marks the first attempt by a patent-holding pharmaceutical corporation to use the extraordinary investor privileges provided by U.S. “trade” agreements as a tool to push for greater monopoly patent protections, which increase the cost of medicines for consumers and governments. Eli Lilly is demanding $100 million in compensation.
Eli Lilly launched its NAFTA attack after Canadian courts invalidated Eli Lilly’s monopoly patent rights for an attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) drug called Strattera. The Canadian courts did so after determining that Eli Lilly had presented insufficient evidence (a single study involving 22 patients) when filing for the patent to show that Strattera would deliver the long-term benefits promised by the company. While the $100 million NAFTA investor-state compensation demand relates to revocation of the Strattera patent, Eli Lilly makes clear in its formal “Notice of Intent” to Canada that it is not only challenging the invalidation of its particular patent, but Canada’s entire legal doctrine for determining an invention’s “utility” and, thus, a patent’s validity. While pushing for an entirely different patent standard, Eli Lilly, the fifth-largest U.S. pharmaceutical corporation, is demanding $100 million from Canadian taxpayers as compensation for Canada’s enforcement of its existing patent standards.
Now the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) – a sweeping NAFTA-style deal under negotiation between the United States and ten Pacific Rim countries – threatens to not just replicate, but expand on the NAFTA provisions that provide the basis for such audacious challenges to countries’ patent policies.