- AstraZeneca (AZ) recently lost patent protection on its flagship heart burn medication Nexium (esomeprazole) in the U.S., opening the door to generic competition—and potential trademark infringement.
- Several pharmaceutical companies have stepped in. Two of the companies, Dr. Reddy's Laboratories and Camber Pharmaceuticals, both created generic pills with purple coloration that's been central to Nexium's brand as "the purple pill."
- AZ has accused Dr. Reddy's Lab of patent infringement and is seeking unspecified damages, Pharmalot reports. At the same time, AZ has also obtained a restraining order against Camber from selling a purple version of its generic.
AstraZeneca is positioning this situation as an IP issue, making the claim that it owns the trademark not only on "The Purple Pill" tagline, but also the actual color of the pill. AZ makes the case that creating purple generic versions of Nexium, a $3-billion-a-year drug, could cause confusion—something that ultimately would benefit the generics manufacturer and hurt AZ.
AZ seems to be right in this case, considering the link between the purple pill image and tagline and Nexium. In advertising situations, "The Purple Pill," is always appended with a trademark symbol. The company also owns and uses 'thepurplepill.com' URL.
On the other side, however, the Dr. Reddy's has made the case that its pill is a different shade of purple than Nexium. Regardless, this is a case that will have to be adjudicated carefully.