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AstraZeneca Sues Generic Indian Pharm for Its Purple Pills

By Jonathan R. Tung, Esq. on November 24, 2015 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

AstraZenaca, the makers of the acid reflux pill Nexium, successfully secured an injunction against the generic pharm company Dr. Reddy's Laboratories for the latter's use of the color purple in packing its pills, according to the New Jersey Law Journal. The two companies have been duking it out in New Jersey and Delaware federal courts over the last few weeks.

Reddy countered on November 18th, claiming the AstraZeneca knew that Reddy intended to package its generic version of the drug in a purple capsule -- or at least purple and lavender.

The Purple and Lavender Pill

AZ obtained the injunction against DRL on November 6th, which halted nationwide sales of the generic version of Nexium which DRL also colored purple.

AZ claimed that the color and the tagline "the purple pill" were protected by three federal trademarks and that DRL's version of the drug would confuse customers. DRL countered shortly afterward and claimed that AZ was fully aware of DRL's intent to use purple as its color because DRL presented protoypes during a 2011 meeting between the two companies. The actual pill produced is actually purple and lavender.

Reddy counterclaimed against AZ for damages. AZ balked at DRL's claims and said that DRL "twisted" the 2011 meeting into an "absurd" attempt to allow a copyright violation. The 2011 meeting was about patent, not trademark, AZ claims.

The Blue, White, or Purple Pill

A number of Indian pharmaceuticals were poised to launch generic versions of Nexium in 2015. Joining DRL are Teva, Mylan, Camber, and Torrent -- each of the companies using a different color to sell the generic version of the drug. Because so many competitors are making the drug available, DRL has used that to argue that it has suffered substantial damages.

What's to learn from this? IP lawsuits are simply the cost of being in the business, let alone doing business.

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