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US Supreme Court denies hearing of Amgen, Merck patent disputes

The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to take up two separate patent matters brought by Amgen Inc. and Merck & Co. Inc., shutting down a pathway in the companies' efforts to overturn rulings impacting their key products.

In the matter regarding Amgen, the company was seeking to overturn a ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit that tossed out a case it brought against Sanofi and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. The Federal Circuit in October 2017 overturned a ban on sales of the two company's cholesterol drug Praluent, a rival to Amgen's Repatha.

Sanofi and Regeneron had admitted to infringing on Amgen's patent in creating Praluent during the court matter but had argued that the patents themselves were invalid. The court's decision to lift the ban on sales involved errors that occurred during a previous trial, rather than a direct ruling on the underlying patent issue.

Amgen appealed the matter to the Supreme Court, which in a Jan. 7 court document announcing cases it would take up for the coming term, denied granting a hearing of the matter.

"We believe in the validity of our PCSK9 antibody patents and are preparing to return to the trial court to retry the remaining issues in the case," Amgen spokeswoman Kelley Davenport said in a Jan. 7 statement. She noted that the trial has been set for Feb. 19.

With respect to the Merck lawsuit, that company was seeking to enforce a $200 million award that had been granted in litigation against Gilead Sciences Inc. over hepatitis C drugs Sovaldi and Harvoni. A federal judge in June 2016 reversed a jury's decision granting the award, ruling that Merck had engaged in misconduct in obtaining its hepatitis C patents.

Merck appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court, which has now declined to consider the case. The company did not return a request for comment on its next steps as of publication.