Canadian Supreme Court puts Viagra in the public domain because Pfizer wouldn't disclose enough of its workings

Michael Geist sez,

The Supreme Court of Canada this morning shocked the pharmaceutical industry by voiding Pfizer's patent in Canada for Viagra. The unanimous decision provides a strong reaffirmation of the policy behind patent law, namely that patents represent a quid pro quo bargain of public disclosure of inventions in return for a time limited monopoly in the invention. The Supreme Court describes it in this way:

"The patent system is based on a "bargain", or quid pro quo: the inventor is granted exclusive rights in a new and useful invention for a limited period in exchange for disclosure of the invention so that society can benefit from this knowledge. This is the basic policy rationale underlying the Act. The patent bargain encourages innovation and advances science and technology."

Canadian Supreme Court Voids Viagra Patent as Insufficient Disclosure Means It Fails the "Patent Bargain" (Thanks, Michael!)


  1. And, suddenly, scores of middle-aged Republican Congressmen reverse their fervent opposition to re-importing drugs from Canada.

  2. “Supreme court hardens stance as Pfizer veils its secret and plays hard to get”
    “Pfizer insists it’s sitting on a precious secret, Court makes it cheap and easily had” 

  3. The court ruling is very interesting. Pfizer patented several compounds in the same filing, but neglected to mention which one actually worked. 

    This obfuscated the actual invention and would’ve prevented an expert from reproducing the results without trial and experimentation, thus breaking the requirement for disclosure.

    Justice served thanks to a competing wealthy pharma company that thinks all the costs and effort required in this legal battle are worth getting a generic version to the market a couple years early.

  4. How long until we start seeing studies and news stories that Viagra has some statistically small, but still unacceptable level of danger to it? A small risk of heart attacks or something. Then it’ll be pulled off the market (along with the generic version) and Pfizer will just happen to release a new, slightly different drug that is similar to Viagra, but different enough to get a new patent and not have the same unacceptable risk of whatever side effect Viagra now has.

    1.  Of course there are risks associated with viagra, any first year biology major, such as myself, can tell you that messing about with your blood pressure can have consequences. Which I believe is what active ingredient in Viagra is doing.

    2. The correct answer is: Negative 5 years or so. Viagra has indeed some already documented side effects and uses outside of giving you a boner and its highly recommended that you dont take it of you had any pre-existing heart problems.

    1. Well, the SCC is the highest court in Canada, so there’s nowhere for them to appeal to. And they could pull Viagra in Canada if they wanted to, but that wouldn’t stop companies from producing generic versions of the drug and selling it in Canada.

      The patent was due to expire in 2014 anyways. I suspect Pfizer is more worried about the precedent this might set for future patent applications and their ability to game the system than they are about losing 1.5 years worth of a monopoly in a country that probably only represents a very small portion of their market internationally. 

    2. Unlike countries, which generally behave like temperamental brats, corporations tend to behave like cold psychopaths.  I’m sure Pfizer would realize that *ahem* “pulling out” of Canada would cost them money and gain them nothing, and decide like a good little psycho to stay keep pushing drugs.

      1. @DevinC: Please actually read the article linked to before you post.  Yours truly, your brain (the big one, not the little one.)

  5. When I read this I was so excited by my Supreme Court’s commitment to intellectual freedom that I ripped my shirt off and started running around the cafe I’m in screaming YEAAAH VIAGRAAA!!!1!  (Yes, I screamed “!!!1!”; it’s a skill I have.)  People are now all looking at the middle-aged man jumping on tables yelling about erectile dysfunction medication but they’re all just jelling on me.  

    And now this team of bright young men in blue uniforms say they want to introduce me to another nice drug called “thorazine”.

  6. A judge who remembers what the original excuse for patent law was again. Indeed, strange things come to pass. 

  7. That’s great news. Not so much because of what small effect it might have on the availability of Viagra in Canada, but because it should serve as a nice warning to all those who deliberately write shitty obfuscated patents. I’ve read a fair number of patents in the area of chemistry, and the difference between those of eighty or a hundred years ago and those filed forty years ago or less is dramatic. Modern patents aren’t quite gibberish, but they sure aren’t written with any intention of helping the reader implement the idea in question.

  8. Worldwide, the country-by-country patents on Viagra are starting to expire and Pfizer is scrambling. Brazilian patents expired in 2010. US patents were supposed to expire this year, but Pfizer won a court case when Teva jumped the gun and tried to bring a generic into the US. The result of the case is Pfizer’s US patent may be extended through 2019.

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