Friday, April 15, 2016

15/04/2016: Neptune Pharma and Europharma cleared by Norwegian court to continue supply of Azamethiphos-based sea lice treatment for farmed Atlantic salmon

Neptune Pharma Ltd (Neptune), Adrian Endacott, Victor Endacott, VAE Consultants and Europharma have been cleared by a judgment from Oslo District Court, Norway, in a dispute with the Fish Vet Group (FVG) and Benchmark Animal Health Group Ltd (Benchmark).

The Court found that Neptune, Adrian Endacott, Victor Endacott and VAE Consultants had “not exploited FVG’s trade secrets, either as individual items or by a protected ‘amount of knowledge’.”

As a result of the judgment Neptune will continue to supply its Azamethiphos-based sea lice treatment, ‘Azasure Vet’, to the salmon farming industry.

The Court considered claims from FVG and Benchmark under English Law and Norwegian marketing law that Neptune, Adrian Endacott and Victor Endacott exploited knowledge about the supply and manufacture of Azamethiphos, a veterinary drug used in the production of farmed Atlantic salmon to control sea lice parasites. The claimants had sought for Neptune to be prohibited from marketing and selling their product, ‘Azasure Vet’, in Norway for a limited period. The claimants also sought damages of 150 million NOK (£12.5m) from Neptune, Adrian Endacott and Victor Endacott jointly and severally.
Image: Cal Injury Lawyer
FVG alleged that Neptune used confidential information about the production and manufacture of ‘Salmosan Vet’ to produce ‘Azasure Vet’ (previously ‘Trident Vet’). FVG alleged that Adrian Endacott and Victor Endacott had obtained confidential information through consultancy work undertaken for FVG by Neptune’s founder Adrian Endacott, prior to its establishment.

The Court disagreed with the claims from FVG and Benchmark Animal Health Group Ltd. Its judgment stated: “Whether Norwegian or English law is used, the court concluded that there is no exploitation of business secrets.”

The judgment also stated that: “The development and production of [Azasure Vet] does not represent a violation of the Marketing Control Act No 28 based on the doctrine of the amount of knowledge. An important starting point for this assessment is that patent protection is now gone, so that there is freedom to develop generic products, and that the formula of the drug is commonly known.”

The Court therefore could not find grounds for compensation or a temporary ban on Neptune’s continued sale of ‘Azasure Vet’. Neptune will continue to supply the Norwegian salmon farming industry via its distributor, Europharma.

The Court ruled against Benchmark’s claim that Norway-based distributors Europharma had also breached laws by selling Neptune Pharma’s product. Benchmark and FVG were ordered to pay for the legal costs of Europharma, determined at 1,162,420 NOK (UK£97,227). The other parties involved in the case were ruled to cover their own legal costs.

The ruling stated: “Given the fact that the claim against Europharma in the subpoena was as high as 40 million, the claim was subsequently increased during the preparatory proceedings, and that requirement and the claim appeared late during the main hearing and was limited to 900,000 kroner, the court is in no doubt that Europharma must be deemed to have won the case essentially in relation to Benchmark. Europharma will therefore initially be awarded compensation for their legal costs from FVG and Benchmark.”

As part of the judgment, Neptune and Europharma are obliged to pay 775,000 NOK (UK£64,822) and 125,000 NOK (UK£10,455) respectively in compensation to Benchmark, plus default interest from 24 October 2014, for a historic trademark infringement under the Trademarks Act No. 58 over the use of the name ‘Trident Vet’, because Benchmark hold the trademark for ‘Trident’. Despite gaining a trademark, Benchmark never marketed their product under the ‘Trident’ name. Neptune took immediate action when it became aware of the trademark in 2014, changing the name of its product from ‘Trident Vet’ to ‘Azasure Vet’.

However the judge held that: "Although it is not of importance to the outcome, the Court considers that it deems most likely that it was Neptune who first came to use the trademark of Trident, and that employees in FVG were most likely aware of Neptune’s intended use of this trademark during a visit to Neptune’s manufacturer in China in summer 2013."

FVG, which supplies its own Azamethiphos-based product in Norway, is a sister company of Benchmark. As part of the same judgment, delivered on 03 March 2016, Benchmark was acquitted of counter claims from Neptune under Marketing Act No. 25.

Learn more about Azasure HERE.

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