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Pfizer Appeals After Losing Battle for Chinese Name of Viagra
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U.S. pharmaceutical company Pfizer said Tuesday it has filed a second appeal after losing a lawsuit here for the right to use the popular Chinese brand name "Wei Ge" on its anti-impotency drug Viagra.

Pfizer sued the Guangzhou-based drug company Welman for allegedly copying the appearance of the blue, diamond tablets and also for maliciously registering "Wei Ge" before Pfizer, saying the Chinese translation had been directly linked to Viagra in media reports since the drug was invented in 1998.

The Beijing No.1 Intermediate People's Court upheld Pfizer's ownership of the medicine design but rejected the other claim last December.

The court said the company was unable to prove it had used the name "Wei Ge" in promoting Viagra or that the word was an unregistered but widely-recognized name for Viagra in China, according to an official website under China's Supreme Court.

The Beijing court ruled that Welman, which applied to register "Wei Ge" as its brand name before Pfizer in 1998 and passed government examinations in 2002, had acted legally, according to chinacourt.org. It said that two other Chinese companies which used the name had also acted lawfully.

Pfizer had demanded that Welman and two other Chinese drug companies stop using the brand name and pay 500,000 yuan (US$ 62,500) in compensation.

A second appeal was filed on January 30, Pfizer said in a statement.

"The court ruling fails to support Chinese efforts to create an environment of innovation that provides consistent protection of intellectual property rights for companies bringing new medicines to China," said Pfizer, adding that it has full trust in China's judicial system.

The case was among more than 670 foreign-related law cases involving intellectual property rights handled by the court from 2002 to 2006. About 60 percent of them were won by foreign parties, according to the website.

The figures show the Chinese government has strictly followed the rules of the World Trade Organization and given equal protection to the legal rights and interests of both Chinese and foreign parties, the website quoted Su Chi, vice president of the court, as saying.

"The battle has hurt both Pfizer and Welman," Sun Mingjie, chairman of Welman, was quoted as saying by the Guangzhou-based Information Times.

"We've lost market opportunities to less reputable producers by spending so much energy on the trademark disputes since 1998," said Sun.

Two of the earliest producers of anti-impotency drugs, Pfizer and Welman have less than 2 percent of the estimated 10 billion-yuan Chinese market, said Sun.

"If we had cooperated in fighting substandard products at the very beginning, we'd have increased our sales by 500 million yuan,” Sun said, adding that Welman expected future cooperation with Pfizer.

A leading world pharmaceutical company, Pfizer has 105,000 employees and annual sales exceeding US$ 50 billion, and has invested more than US$ 500 million in China.

(Xinhua News Agency February 7, 2007)

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