Preliminary Injunction Bars Use of Purple for Generic Heartburn Pill

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By Anandashankar Mazumdar

Nov. 9 — The maker of Nexium and Prilosec is likely to prevail on its claim that a generic drugmaker has infringed its trademark rights by selling a purple-colored heartburn pill, the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware ruled Nov. 6.

Finding a likelihood of confusion and a likelihood of irreparable harm to the brand-name drug company, the court granted a temporary restraining order barring the generic maker from using purple capsules.

AstraZeneca AB makes Nexium and Prilosec, name-brand versions of the medication esomeprazole, which is used to treat stomach acid. Prilosec has been on the market since 1989, and Nexium was first sold in 2001.

The drugs are sold as purple-colored and capsules, and have been marketed under the name “The Purple Pill.”

In 2006, AstraZeneca received a U.S. trademark registration on the term “The Purple Pill” for gastrointestinal disease drugs (Registration No. 3188285). It also holds three registrations for purple and purple-and-gold-colored capsules for GI medications.

Nexium is also marketed through a website associated with the domain name

AstraZeneca has licensed use of the “Nexium” name and the purple color trademark to Pfizer for an over-the-counter version, and has sued other generic drugmakers for using purple capsules for esomeprazole.

On Oct. 28, AstraZeneca brought a trademark infringement claim against Dr. Reddy's Laboratories Inc. for selling its generic esomeprazole in purple-colored capsules and moved for a preliminary injunction.

Even though Dr. Reddy's capsule was not exactly the same in appearance as the Nexium and Prilosec capsules—it was half dark purple and half light purple—the court found a likelihood of confusion.

AstraZeneca AB is a pharmaceutical company based in Sweden formed by the 1999 merger of Sweden's Astra AB and Britain's Zeneca Group PLC. Dr. Reddy's is an India-based maker of generic drugs founded in 1984.

The court's ruling was issued by Judge Sue L. Robinson.

AstraZeneca was represented by McCarter & English LLP, Wilmington, Del. Dr. Reddy's was represented by Smith, Katzenstein & Jenkins LLP, Wilmington.

To contact the reporter on this story: Anandashankar Mazumdar in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mike Wilczek in Washington at

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