A case crucial to the future of the big British drugmaker Glaxo is beginning in North Carolina. Glaxo is suing to stop Canadian generics maker Novopharm Ltd. from introducing a knockoff of Glaxo's antiulcer drug Zantac to the U.S. in 1995. Novopharm contends that Glaxo should lose patent protection then, not in 2002 as scheduled. If Glaxo loses, generics could grab the lion's share of the market--devastating Glaxo, which gets 60% of its profits from Zantac.

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