Wyeth Pharmaceuticals went the safe route in its fight over the patent for Effexor, the company’s top-selling drug and the world’s best-selling antidepressant. Rather than risk the patent at trial with Teva Pharmaceuticals, USA, Inc., Wyeth agreed to lop a few years off its patent.

In September 2005, a month before the trial was set to begin, a Newark, N.J., federal district court judge issued a Markman ruling that was slightly in Teva’s favor, says P. Branko Pejic, a senior litigation associate at Greenblum & Bernstein, who wrote about the case in his firm’s monthly newsletter. But the ruling “wasn’t a slam dunk for Teva,” he adds. In other words, conditions were ripe for settlement. On the day the trial was set to begin, Wyeth announced that it would let Teva begin selling generic Effexor XR, the extended release version of the drug, in 2010, seven years ahead of its patent expiration. In return, Teva agreed to pay Wyeth a percentage of profits from sales.

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