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Two big drug makers are challenging a provision in Australian patent law that they argue is “unreasonable,” and the outcome could determine the extent to which the pharmaceutical industry continues to find the Australian market attractive.

In a recent complaint, Bristol Myers Squibb (BMY) and Ono Pharmaceutical (OPHLY) maintain that existing law unfairly restricts the ability of a company to win a five-year patent extension for a product and, moreover, is out of step with the prevailing standards in many other countries.


Under the law, a company seeking to extend its original patent must file within six months of when the drug appears in the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods. But there is a catch. A ruling last fall by the Australian patent office maintained the clock starts ticking from the first listing in the register of any drug that falls within the scope of its patent, even if that other drug is made by a rival company.

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