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The global pharmaceutical industry was handed a big win on Friday when Canada’s Supreme Court ruled that long-standing criteria for awarding patents are too rigorous, opening the door for drug makers to more easily win patent protection and thwart generic competition.

The decision follows a sustained effort by the industry to force the Canadian government to overhaul its approach to patent law, which it claimed was discriminatory and resulted in more than two dozen pharmaceutical patents being invalided over the last decade.


At issue is the extent to which a patent applicant, such as a drug maker, must demonstrate that its product is sufficiently capable of doing whatever is claimed in its patent application. The Supreme Court decided that the existing standard, known as the Promise Doctrine, is too demanding. Instead, patent applicants must only claim their inventions have a minimum amount of usefulness.

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