By Lawrence Hurley
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd asked the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday to stop a lower court ruling from going into effect while the justices consider an appeal in a patent fight over Teva's top-selling multiple sclerosis drug Copaxone.
On March 31, the high court agreed to hear Teva's appeal of a July 2013 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in favor of two teams developing cheaper generic forms of Copaxone: one involving Novartis AG's Sandoz Inc and Momenta Pharmaceuticals Inc, and the other involving Mylan Inc and Natco Pharma Ltd.
The appeals court had upheld some of the nine patents involved in the drug, or portions of them, but declared several invalid, meaning patent protections were set to expire in May 2014 instead of September 2015.
The company's lawyers said in the court filing that if the appeals court ruling was not stayed, "Teva's innovative and widely prescribed treatment for multiple sclerosis will lose protection."
The Supreme Court will not be hearing oral arguments in the Teva case until its 2014 term begins in October. A ruling could come as late as June 2015. If the court does not act on the stay application, the ruling could come "effectively too late to prevent irreparable harm to Teva," the lawyers said.
The stay application was directed to Chief Justice John Roberts. He is likely to ask the other litigants for a response before deciding how to proceed.
Teva is currently trying to switch patients over to a new version of Copaxone, which is the company's most important product.
The case is Teva v. Sandoz, U.S. Supreme Court, 13-854.
(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Howard Goller and Jeffrey Benkoe)