Health | Wed Aug 22, 2012 4:00pm IST

India's top court to hear Glivec patent case from September 11

(Reuters) - India's top court will hear final arguments from September 11 in a key patent dispute between Swiss drugmaker Novartis and India's patent office, a case that could curb India's global position as a supplier of cut-price generic medicines.

The hearing, which is expected to last for at least two months, had been scheduled to being on Wednesday.

Novartis appealed to the Supreme Court after its cancer medicine Glivec was refused a patent on the grounds the drug is not a new molecule but an amended version of a known compound. Novartis has challenged this clause of Indian Patents Act.

The case has further built tensions between the Big Pharma and India, following a decision by the patent office in March to strip Germany's Bayer AG of its exclusive right to sell another costly cancer drug, Nexavar.

Western firms see huge potential in India's rapidly growing economy but are concerned over safety of intellectual property.

The case is of immense importance to Novartis as it needs certainty of laws if further investments are to be planned.

"The patent for Glivec is not really the issue here. It is just an example of us wanting very clear legal clarity about what kind of innovation is patentable," Paul Herrling, head of the Novartis Institute for Tropical Diseases, told Reuters earlier.

(Reporting by Kaustubh Kulkarni in MUMBAI; Editing by Alex Richardson)

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