The Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration’s (ITA) helped the Indianapolis, Indiana based U.S. pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly, overcome patent infringement that would have harmed the company’s market share in Oman, a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).
Why it Matters
If the United States Government had not helped to ensure that the Government of Oman honored the GCC’s patent for Eli Lilly’s product, Zyprexa, the company would have lost significant, if not all, market share in Oman. Moreover, the purchase of a generic drug would have set a dangerous precedent for IPR protection in other countries that are also party to the GCC patent obligations, i.e., Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.
In July 2011, the Omani Ministry of Health announced plans to purchase olanzapine, a generic drug used to treat schizophrenia. The Omani Ministry of Health claimed that because Zyprexa, Eli Lilly’s branded version of olanzapine, had a U.S. patent that would expire in fall 2011, the GCC patent for Eli Lilly’s Zyprexa would no longer apply. As a founding GCC member, Oman is required to abide by GCC patents. Eli Lilly correctly noted that the GCC’s patent for Zyprexa still applied in Oman despite the end of the U.S. patent.
ITA, working with other U.S. government agencies, alerted Omani officials that Oman would potentially breach its patent responsibilities, and facilitated meetings between Eli Lilly representatives in the region and Omani authorities. As a result of this government and private sector cooperative approach, Omani officials reversed their course and did not break their patent obligations by purchasing the generic olanzapine. After resolving this issue, Eli Lilly’s Director of International Government Affairs, stated that, “I am 100% certain that this result would not have been achieved without the support of the U.S. Embassy and support from Washington. Each of you contributed to [this] effort.”
Working closely with U.S. companies, ITA creates, expands, and defends market access for U.S. goods and services overseas through the Trade Agreements Compliance Program. “We promote policy that develops a more favorable business climate for U.S. companies in global markets; we employ commercial diplomacy to resolve trade barriers; and we leverage our bilateral and multilateral trade agreements to ensure our trading partners live up to their commitments so that our businesses can compete on a level playing-field.” - Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Market Access and Compliance, Michael C. Camuñez.