AbbVie sued an Icelandic pharmaceutical company for allegedly misappropriating trade secrets in order to develop a generic version of AbbVie’s rheumatoid arthritis drug, Humira.
AbbVie Inc. and AbbVie Biotechnology Ltd. filed a complaint in the Northern District of Illinois on Thursday, arguing that Alvotech hf. began its plot to infiltrate AbbVie and steal confidential information through recruiting then-employee of AbbVie Rongzan Ho, who led a manufacturing team for Humira and thus had access to proprietary and trade secret information, specifically regarding the “upstream” process of creating the drug. Ho purportedly sent such information in an email to his personal email account before leaving AbbVie and going to work for Alvotech, even though he declared that he had erased all AbbVie-related material from his devices, according to the complaint.
“Alvotech’s recruit, and by extension Alvotech, unlawfully took AbbVie’s confidential trade secret materials to Alvotech for use in his work there, including by using information taken from AbbVie to develop and implement the manufacturing of a knockoff version of the exact same drug that he was responsible for at AbbVie,” the complaint alleged.
When AbbVie became suspicious of the alleged conduct, it reached out to Alvotech to ask the company to address the suspicions surrounding Ho’s hiring and new role.
“Alvotech did not deny that Mr. Ho worked on a biosimilar to HUMIRA® while employed at Alvotech,” the complaint claimed. “Alvotech also did not deny that it deployed Mr. Ho in the exact same role he performed at AbbVie and tasked him with developing and overseeing manufacturing for a biosimilar of the exact same drug that he was responsible for at AbbVie, AVT02, a high-concentration HUMIRA® biosimilar, again in violation of his obligations to AbbVie.”
AbbVie asserted that Alvotech’s recruitment of AbbVie employees did not stop at Ho, alleging that at least two more former AbbVie employees left to go work for the defendant.
“Alvotech’s conduct threatens uncontrolled and irreparable dissemination of AbbVie’s trade secrets around the world, as Alvotech already built a biologics manufacturing facility in Iceland and recently announced a joint venture to build a new biologics manufacturing facility in China,” AbbVie argued. “Unless enjoined, Alvotech’s illegal actions will serve as a roadmap to use AbbVie’s trade secrets for both Alvotech and other companies that have not adequately invested in their own independent research and development.”
Latham & Watkins LLP and Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner LLP are representing AbbVie.