Supreme Court won't review J&J-Abbott patent case

WASHINGTON Tue Feb 21, 2012 10:50am EST

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to review a ruling that Abbott Laboratories' Humira arthritis drug did not infringe a patent owned by a Johnson & Johnson subsidiary and that threw out a $1.67 billion damage award against Abbott.

The justices refused to hear an appeal by the J&J unit -- Janssen Biotech, previously known as Centocor Ortho Biotech -- of the ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

The appeals court ruled the patent claims asserted by the J&J unit were invalid and the patent thus could not be infringed. It overturned the award of $1.67 billion by a jury in 2009 in federal court in Texas for lost profits and damages.

The case involved Humira, Abbott's drug that blocks tumor necrosis factor and competes with Johnson & Johnson's older blockbuster medication Remicade. The lawsuit was filed in 2007.

In appealing to the Supreme Court, attorneys for the J&J unit said the Patent Act requires a written description of the invention. It said the appeals court had read the mandate incorrectly, in a way that went beyond disclosing the invention and enabled others to make and use it.

It said the appeals court had enforced a "burdensome" and "heightened standard" on biotechnology patents and that the question was of "pressing importance."

Attorneys for Abbott opposed the appeal, saying the appeals court correctly decided the issue and that further Supreme Court review was unwarranted.

The Supreme Court case is Janssen Biotech v. Abbott Laboratories, No 11-596.

(Reporting By James Vicini and Diane Bartz; editing by John Wallace)

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