As part of Osgoode’s Intellectual Property Law Intensive Program, I had the opportunity to spend ten weeks at Teva Canada working with in-house counsel. Teva Canada is one of Canada’s largest generic pharmaceutical companies that also has a brand division focusing on the development of innovative products in several therapeutic areas.
During my summer work experience I had gained a reasonable idea of what it was like to practice patent law at a firm. To round out my experience leaving law school I wanted to learn how practicing patent law at a firm compared to practicing as in-house counsel. The experience I gained at Teva was phenomenal and gave me significant insights into both the similarities and differences between the “firm” and “in-house” practices.
My internship happened to coincide with a patent trial involving Teva, Apotex (a generic pharmaceutical company) and Novartis (a brand company). I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to attend the trial and witness patent litigation first hand. Patent litigation is an aspect of patent law practiced by lawyers working at firms and in-house. I had the opportunity to not just watch the trial but discuss the issues with counsel representing both Teva and Apotex. In addition to the substantive legal issues being argued, I found the litigation strategies that were employed particularly interesting. The preparation and skill required to successfully argue complex legal and scientific issues on your feet is incredible. As someone who aspires to a career in patent litigation this was an inspiring experience.
The trial experience also gave me exposure to business aspects of the patent practice that are found more commonly in the in-house environment. Litigation is but one route to the final goal of a pharmaceutical company, bringing a product to market. Another route is to negotiate agreements that are mutually beneficial to both parties and litigation is often a catalyst for these negotiations. An enormous number of variables exist that must be considered in these negotiations and while some are legal in nature the vast majority are business related. Factors such as market value, market share, risk and costs must be considered for multiple scenarios when determining what type of settlement or agreement is best for the company’s objectives. Negotiations are often tied directly to litigation and how a particular case is going can provide leverage in the negotiation process. This was an aspect of patent law that I had not previously experienced and I found it very interesting to see business and law interacting in a practical and dynamic setting.
Another area that I was exposed to was patent law policy. The Canadian government is currently negotiating a new free trade agreement with the European Union. As part of these negotiations the European Union has proposed significant amendments to Canada’s patent law system as it relates to pharmaceutical products. Teva is very interested in these negotiations and has been actively discussing the issues with the Canadian government. Having both generic and brand products, Teva is in a somewhat unique position in seeking a balanced approach to amendments to the patent system. I was able to discuss the proposed amendments and the policy behind making changes to the patent system with several members of Teva’s team who have engaged in discussions with members of the government. This gave me a unique perspective to reflect on various aspects of our patent system including its objectives, fundamental principles and the many forces influencing changes to the system. These discussions inspired me to focus my major research paper on Canada’s pharmaceutical intellectual property system and the changes being proposed by the European Union.
A significant portion of my time at Teva was spent drafting opinions regarding the validity and non-infringement of patents protecting brand name pharmaceutical products. A key aspect of Teva’s generic business is identifying patents it feels can be challenged in court as part of the regulatory approval process for generic products. I received great mentorship on how to assess patents, draft arguments challenging their validity and assess whether or not claims will be infringed by certain actions. Performing substantive analysis of this type is a common feature of practicing patent law at a firm or in-house making the experience I gained invaluable.
Overall, the experiences I gained and the people I had the privilege of meeting and learning from were phenomenal. In the future, when reflecting back on my law school experiences this internship will stand out above all others.
Sean Jackson is a JD Candidate at Osgoode Hall Law School and was enrolled in Osgoode’s Intellectual Property Law Intensive Program. As part of the program requirements, students were asked to write a reflective blog on their internship experience.