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Competition authorities probe Novartis over suspected patent abuse

The Swiss competition commission (COMCO) has opened an investigation into suspected unlawful use of a patent to reduce competitive pressure by Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis.

The probe, which is in collaboration with the European Commission, is looking into whether the company used unlawful means to ward off competition for its own dermatological treatments. COMCO conducted an early morning raid at the company’s Basel headquarters on September 13 in connection with the probe.“The company allegedly attempted to protect its drug for the treatment of skin diseases against competing products by using one of its patents to initiate litigation proceedings,” COMCO said in a statement, which didn’t mention the company by name.

The investigation seeks to determine whether the alleged behaviour constitutes the use of a so-called blocking patent, which might amount to an unlawful abuse of an allegedly dominant position according to the Swiss Cartel Act.

In a press release, Novartis confirmed authorities had “visited” the company and said the “opening of an investigation does not imply any finding of wrongdoing or any financial impact. Novartis is fully cooperating with the authorities and is confident to clarify the legitimacy of its position”.

The company told the financial news site AWP that the search was limited to the Basel headquarters.

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