The biopharma business HDT Bio and Emcure Pharmaceuticals, a generic drug maker located in India, is currently engaged in a high-stakes legal dispute. The lawsuit claimed that Emcure had misappropriated and “stolen” billion-dollar trade secrets from HDT Bio, and it sought an astounding $950 million in damages. The trade secrets in dispute have to do with creating a COVID-19 vaccine that used self-amplifying RNA. Emcure, however, has recently experienced a major respite after a US district judge dismissed the action without prejudice, allowing it to be refiled, and upheld the company’s claim that the court lacked jurisdiction.
Case in Brief :
HDT Bio Corp v. Emcure Pharmaceuticals Ltd, U.S. District Court for the District of Washington, is a legal dispute that was filed in the United States District Court for the District of Washington. Emcure Pharmaceuticals Ltd, an India-based pharmaceutical company, allegedly misappropriated HDT Bio Corp’s trade secrets related to a self-amplifying RNA (saRNA) shot for COVID-19.
Emcure’s subsidiary, Gennova Biopharmaceuticals, was said to have licensed HDT Bio Corp’s saRNA technology. However, HDT claimed that Gennova later claimed ownership of the vaccine and applied for two Indian patents based on HDT’s technology. Emcure was also accused by HDT of refusing to pay royalties and violating their licensing agreement. As a result, HDT sought monetary damages of at least $950 million.
District Judge James Robart dismissed the case without prejudice, which means it can be refiled. Emcure had claimed that the court lacked jurisdiction over it. The court extended the jurisdictional discovery deadline to July 28, 2023, giving HDT until August 4 2023, to file an amended complaint. After August 4, 2023, Emcure may respond or file a renewed motion to dismiss.
The lawsuit’s historical context :
Emcure, according to HDT, gained access to and misappropriated their billion-dollar trade secrets for creating, blending, and combining saRNA with its proprietary delivery system through its subsidiary Gennova Biopharmaceuticals. For the alleged theft, HDT sought $950 million in damages.
Emcure vehemently denied any wrongdoing, arguing that Genova and Emcure are distinct entities and that the court lacked jurisdiction over the case. While Emcure recently won a legal victory with the dismissal of the lawsuit, HDT has the option to refile in the future. This high-stakes litigation highlights the fiercely competitive landscape of the burgeoning saRNA vaccine market, as well as the significant financial consequences of intellectual property disputes in this field.
Legal Framework :
This lawsuit involves several legal frameworks that are relevant to various aspects of the case. Here’s a more in-depth breakdown:
1. Defence of Trade Secrets Act (DTSA):
- This federal law prohibits the misappropriation of trade secrets, with “trade secret” defined as information that has independent economic value because it is not widely known or easily ascertainable.
- It gives businesses who have had their trade secrets stolen a civil cause of action for damages and injunctive relief.
- This statute applies to HDT’s claim against Emcure for misappropriating its trade secrets, which could result in significant monetary damages or injunctions against Emcure.
2. Washington Uniform Trade Secrets Act (WUTSA):
- This state law is similar to the DTSA in that it protects trade secrets in Washington state.
- It defines “trade secret” and outlines various misappropriation acts.
- This statute also includes a civil cause of action for monetary damages and injunctive relief, which could allow HDT to seek relief under both federal and state laws.
3. Federal Rules of Civil Procedure:
- These rules govern how civil cases are handled in federal courts, including how jurisdiction is determined.
- Personal jurisdiction is governed by Rule 4, which requires a defendant to have sufficient minimum contacts with the forum state for the court to exercise power over them.
- This rule is critical in determining whether the court has jurisdiction to hear Emcure’s case.
4. Non-Convenient Forum:
- This legal doctrine allows a court to dismiss a case because the dispute should be heard in a different forum.
- The court considers factors such as the convenience of the parties, the location of witnesses and evidence, and the state’s interest in resolving the dispute.
- This doctrine is relevant to Emcure’s claim that India is a better venue for the case.
5. London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA) Rules:
- Emcure’s subsidiary, Genova, is currently involved in an LCIA arbitration with HDT.
- The LCIA is a well-known international arbitration institution that has its own set of rules for conducting arbitration proceedings.
- Emcure’s stay request is based on the possibility of conflicting decisions in the court case and the LCIA arbitration.
The Court’s Judgment :
The US District Judge James Robart was instrumental in the litigation involving Emcure Pharmaceuticals and HDT Bio. When the lawsuit was filed, Emcure contended that the company’s unique identity from its Indian subsidiary Gennova Biopharmaceuticals 2 and lack of a business presence in the United States rendered the court without jurisdiction over the company.
Emcure’s claim of lack of jurisdiction was upheld by Judge Robart, who dismissed the case without prejudice, allowing it to be refiled at a later time. The following criteria served as the basis for this decision:
- Emcure’s contention that the court ought to postpone discovery until the “threshold jurisdictional issues” of forum non-conveniens and personal jurisdiction have been settled.
- Emcure’s insistence that HDT’s justifications weren’t strong enough to establish jurisdiction.
HDT Bio may choose to resubmit the lawsuit in the future given the case’s dismissal without prejudice. Emcure Pharmaceuticals has achieved a significant legal victory with this outcome, as it removes the immediate threat of a $950 million lawsuit. But there’s a chance the case will be refiled at some point, which means the two businesses could fight in court again.
James Robart, the US district judge, upheld Emcure Pharmaceuticals’ claim that the court lacked jurisdiction by ruling in the company’s favour. The complaint was thus dismissed by the judge without prejudice, which meant that it may be refiled at a later date.
Both Emcure and HDT Bio will be significantly impacted by the dismissal of the $950 million lawsuit against Emcure Pharmaceuticals. Even though Emcure has reaped significant benefits from the lawsuit’s dismissal, the possibility of a future refile leaves the door open for additional legal disputes between the two businesses. The pharmaceutical industry has kept a careful eye on the case, which contained claims of trade secret misappropriation connected to creating a COVID-19 vaccine. A huge legal win for the Indian pharmaceutical company.
Aditya Pratap is a lawyer and founder of Aditya Pratap Law Offices. He practices in the realm of real estate, corporate, and criminal law. His website is adityapratap.in and his media interviews can be accessed at http://www.youtube.com/@AdityaPratap/featured. Views expressed are personal.
This article has been assisted by Himanshi Chandani, a 4th-year law student pursuing B.A., LL.B. from Lloyd Law College, Greater Noida.