Pharma firms in inhaler dispute

A major pharmaceutical company is seeking an injunction preventing the roll-out by a rival of an inhaler for asthmatics over alleged infringement of its trademark.

Pharma firms in inhaler dispute

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) says Rowex Ltd is preparing to launch a product similar in its packaging to Glaxo’s “Seretide” inhaler, which is the fourth highest-selling pharmaceutical product in the world, with more than €58bn in global sales .

The UK-based Glaxo Group, along with GSK (Ireland) Ltd, trading as Allen and Hanburys, is to apply next month for an injunction preventing Rowex, a member of the Rowa group of pharmaceutical companies, from proceeding with the launch of an inhaler called “AirFluSal”.

GSK’s case alleging infringement of trademark was admitted to the High Court’s fast-track Commercial Court division on consent between the parties.

The application for an injunction preventing roll-out of the product will be heard next month.

In an affidavit, GSK’s vice-president and trademark counsel, Joanne Green, says her company has built up a valuable intellectual property over the last 15 years in the use of “the unique and distinctive colour purple” on its Seretide inhaler.

The AirFluSal inhaler, which contains the same generic active ingredient as Seretide, is also to be packaged using the colour purple, she says.

This is a “blatant and unlawful attempt to piggy-back on the huge investment” made by GSK in relation to Seretide, she says.

While there are multiple products with the same active ingredient already on the market, they have not copied the purple colour. GSK’s objection is to the combination by Rowex of purple with a device similar of shape to the Seretide inhaler.

If Rowex was to change the colour of its inhaler, so that purple was no longer used, GSK would have no objection to the shape of the rival AirFluSal device, Ms Green says.

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