Roche faces new pressure

Pharmaceutical giant Roche could be facing new fines in the US

The pharmaceuticals giant, Roche, is facing a setback in the United States with the expected loss of a patent dispute likely to cost more than $1 billion.

This content was published on November 28, 2001 - 16:55

Just two weeks ago, the European Union fined the Basel-based concern €462 million (SFr675 million) after it found Roche guilty of forming a vitamin cartel. The fine was the largest in the EU's history, though Roche was relaxed in accepting the judgement. It announced that the fine would be covered through provisions.

But the company is already threatened with further fines. US analysts expect the Roche subsidiary, Diagnostics, to lose a patent dispute in the state of Maryland. The latest case could cost the company "over $1 billion" John Putnam, an analyst with the investment bank, Gruntal told the Tages Anzeiger.

Licence agreements

Roche is currently before a Maryland court. Its US competitor, IGEN, accuses Roche of having broken licence agreements. Observers doubt whether Roche can win the case.

IGEN develops modern diagnostic systems. Its patented products are used in detecting cancer and also hereditary diseases and allergies.

According to the Tages Anzeiger, IGEN accuses Roche of using IGEN's technology to set up a leading position in the sector and says IGEN never received proper compensation.

Roche is also accused of breaching a licensing agreement by settling a patent infringement with a third party out-of-court without IGEN's consent.

Roche says it is optimistic about the outcome of the case. In a statement in August, Heini von Prondzynski, head of the diagnostics division, said he remained confident, though the end of the case may be a long way off.

swissinfo with agencies

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