By Richard Stobbe
If you are a patent owner, you are entitled to damages if someone infringes your patent. The measure of damages is compensatory damages, lost profits or a “reasonable royalty”. Is it fair for the infringer to say that the damages should be reduced because the infringer could have made the same sales using an available alternative that did not infringe the patent?
Marck sued its rival Apotex for patent infringement for sales of the drug lovastatin. The trial judge awarded Merck a total damages award of $119 million. In the decision in Apotex Inc. v. Merck & Co., Inc. 2015 FCA 171, the court considered Apotex’s argument about “non-infringing alternatives”. In a nutshell, Apotex was saying, okay, we infringed when we sold lovastatin using the patent process, but we could have made the same sales of lovastatin using another process that did not infringe. Therefore, the measure of damages should be lower, since the loss of profits could still have been suffered by the patent holder without any patent infringement.
The court describes it this way: “The principal issue raised on this appeal is whether, when calculating damages for patent infringement, it is relevant to consider the availability of non-infringing alternative products available to the infringer. For the reasons that follow I have concluded that, as a matter of law, the availability of a non-infringing alternative is a relevant consideration. The issue arises in the following context: Apotex has been found liable for patent infringement. On the issue of remedy, Apotex submits that the damages it is liable for should be reduced because it had available a non-infringing product that it could and would have used.” (Emphasis added) In other words, the patent holder’s sales could have been reduced simply by legitimate competition as opposed to infringement. In the end, the court agreed that non-infringing alternatives should be considered, but disagreed that there was any non-infringing alternative available in this case.
The damages award (one of the largest damage awards in Canada) remained in place and Apotex’s appeal was dismissed. This kicks open the door to arguments about using “non-infringing alternatives” to reduce damages in future patent infringement lawsuits.
Calgary – 05:00 MTNo comments