Outlook Darkens for US Stance on Israeli IP Laws

May 5, 2005

Following the reinstatement of Israel to the Office of the US Trade Representative's (USTR) intellectual property blacklist last week, the vice president of leading Israeli generics maker Teva, Chaim Hurvitz, claims to have been surprised by the decision. The USTR's move, which was partly in reaction to a new data exclusivity bill awaiting final approval by the Israeli Finance Committee, places Israel just one notch below the Ukraine, which has been targeted for US sanctions as a "Priority Foreign Country."

However, Hurvitz claimed that the US action simply amounted to an attempt to stoke tensions to discourage the patent law's likely approval. Defending the new measure, he noted that some Israeli patent terms currently outlast US equivalents, although the law will allow firms like Teva to conduct trials on generics set for export ahead of the crucial window of US patent expiry.

Israeli government officials are likely to concur with the local industry's view that the US action is largely unwarranted, especially after Israeli proposals to allow five years of data exclusivity were rejected by US negotiators. As Israeli Trade Minister Ehud Olmert now claims that US action on intellectual property issues was due to "brutal pressure" from multinational pharmaceutical companies, even the USTR's acknowledgement of "some progress" is unlikely to imply a thaw in relations in the foreseeable future.