On Friday, Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, who is the federal government’s top advocate in the U.S. Supreme Court, spoke at Georgetown Law Center in Washington on two antitrust and two patents cases as his top concerns this term.
In antitrust, he said the FTC v. Phoebe Putney Health System (decided in February) and the FTC V. Actavis are among the top priorities in his term. The Actavis case is scheduled for arguments on March 25.
In the first case of FTC v. Phoebe Putney Health System, Verrilli said the court found a local hospital authority in Georgia was bound to obey federal antitrust laws and ruled 9-0 in favor of FTC. Verrilli mentioned that a case of FTC winning an antitrust enforcement in the U.S. Supreme Court was pretty rare.
The Actavis case is over “pay-for-delay” and concerned with the settlement of patent litigation between pharmaceutical companies to prevent competitors manufacturing generic drugs from immediately entering the market. According to the FTC, such cases of settlement between companies should be presumed as unlawful unless they are able to substantiate their actions.
The two major patent cases mentioned by Verrilli during his speech included Bowman v. Monsanto – which deals with the question of when patents over genetically modified seeds should expire, and Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad, which addresses issues over the patenting of human genes.
In the case over genetically modified seeds, the government’s stance is that patent rights do not expire even if a farmer plants a crop using a second generation of such patented seeds. Verrilli said, the issue was important because otherwise there would be little meaning in obtaining a patent under the circumstances.