Court Upholds Patents on AZT

January 1, 1995

WASHINGTON--The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has ruled in favor of Burroughs-Wellcome, the manufacturer of zidovudine (Retrovir or AZT), on five of six patents that had been challenged by two pharmaceutical companies hoping to win the right to produce a generic version of the drug. The ruling should provide the company with a monopoly on zidovudine until the year 2005.

WASHINGTON--The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit hasruled in favor of Burroughs-Wellcome, the manufacturer of zidovudine(Retrovir or AZT), on five of six patents that had been challengedby two pharmaceutical companies hoping to win the right to producea generic version of the drug. The ruling should provide the companywith a monopoly on zidovudine until the year 2005.

The plaintiffs had claimed that Burroughs-Wellcome scientistswere not the sole inventors of the drug and that the patent shouldbe shared with the NIH, thus giving the government the right tolicense the agent to other manufacturers.

The court held, however, that the Burroughs-Wellcome scientistswere the sole inventors, since they were the first to isolatethe agent. The NIH scientists' contribution of a method of assessingthe drug's therapeutic potential did not qualify them to be consideredinventors of the drugs, the court ruled.