Pfizer's Intellectual Property Rights Battles in China for Viagra

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This case study was compiled from published sources, and is intended to be used as a basis for class discussion. It is not intended to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of a management situation. Nor is it a primary information source.

Case Details:


Case Code : BENV010 For delivery in electronic format: Rs. 300;
For delivery through courier (within India): Rs. 300 + Rs. 25 for Shipping & Handling Charges


Business Environment/ Intellectual Property Rights/ Transitory economies/ International Marketing
Case Length : 22 Pages
Period : 2000-2007
Pub Date : 2007
Teaching Note : Not Available
Organization : Pfizer, Inc.
Industry : Pharmaceutical
Countries : China


This case is about Pfizer Inc.'s numerous intellectual property rights (IPR) litigations in China related to its blockbuster drug for erectile dysfunction, Viagra. Despite launching Viagra in the Chinese market as early as 2000, Pfizer, the world's largest pharmaceutical company, could not make much headway with its brand 'Wan Ai Ke' in this market. This was despite the fact that China was the most populous country in the world and that there was a huge market for aphrodisiacs and traditional medicines that enhanced one's sexual performance. 'Wan Ai Ke' had failed to realize its potential largely due to two factors- competition from cheaper generic drugs and fakes, and patent litigations from a group of Chinese generic drugs companies.

In 2004, the patent for Viagra was revoked in China which led to an international outcry against the decision. In 2006, the patent was again restored but the matter was still sub judice.

The case discusses the growing sophistication of the Chinese competitors who were taking legal recourse to overturn the validity of domestically issued patents as part of their competitive strategy. Though the foreign research based pharmaceutical companies were not happy with the "lax"IPR regime, the booming Chinese pharmaceutical market provided enough incentive for these companies to stay and fight it out in this emerging market. Experts viewed such litigations as a sign of increasing appreciation of IPRs in China, and a precursor for China's transition toward full compliance with the World Trade Organization agreement.


Understand the issues and challenges faced by companies in emerging market, especially in markets which are making a transition to a stronger IPR regime in line with TRIPS

Understand the business environment in China from the point of view of a foreign research based pharmaceutical company


  Page No.
Pfizer Wins Viagra IPR Litigation - China in Transition? 1
Background Note 3
SIPO Invalidates Viagra's Patent 5
SIPO Ruling Leads to International Outcry 6
Analysts See a Silver Lining 7
China's Huge Market can't be Ignored 8
Pfizer's Viagra Patent Restored 9
China Cracks Down on Counterfeiters 11
Pfizer Loses Viagra Trademark Row 11
Outlook 12
Exhibits 14


Pfizer Inc., Viagra, Wan Ai Ke, Wei Ge, Intellectual property rights, Business environment, China, Patent, Trade Related Intellectual-Property Rights (TRIPS), Chinese competitors, Competitive strategy, Trademark, World Trade Organization, Levitra, Cialis, Chinese pharmaceutical market, Chinese-language equivalent trademarks, Patent enforcement system, International marketing, Counterfeit, Erectile dysfunction, Sexual Performance Enhancing Drugs

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