Nearly seven years after the landmark Supreme Court decision in Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank Int’l, subject matter eligibility for patent claims under 35 U.S.C § 101 remains a moving target. In Alice, the Court found claims for a computerized escrow arrangement ineligible for patenting because they were directed to the abstract idea of “intermediated settlement” and did not recite an inventive concept that could impart eligibility under Section 101. While the Alice case focused on a software invention, a few recent lower court decisions suggest that, in certain circumstances, medical device patents may not be immune from similar patent eligibility challenges.
Allele v. Pfizer – The Basics. On April 23, 2021, Pfizer, Inc., BioNTechSE, and BioNTech US, Inc. (“Pfizer and BioNTech”) filed a joint reply supporting of their previously filed motion to dismiss a patent infringement complaint filed by Allele Biotechnology and Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (“Allele”) in the Southern District of California. The patent at the center of the case is U.S. Pat. No. 10,221,221 (“the ’221 Patent”) which covers Allele’s mNeonGreen, a monomeric yellow-green fluorescent protein notable for its intense brightness. On May 4, 2021, the court denied the motion to dismiss, leaning heavily of the Federal Circuit’s 2008 decision Proveris Science Corp. v. Innovasystems, Inc. As this case continues to develop it could help shed light on an unsettled issue – are “research tools” categorically excluded from the 35 U.S.C. § 271(e)(1) Safe Harbor?
In an opinion issued on March 3, 2021, the Supreme Court of Delaware, one of the top commercial courts in the country, overturned a jury verdict that Glaxo Group Limited and Human Genome Sciences, Inc. (collectively, “GSK”) breached the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing when GSK disclaimed all the claims of a lupus treatment patent it had licensed from Biogen thereby extinguishing its obligation to pay ongoing royalties on sales of its lupus treatment drug. The court’s reasoning and the outcome raise important considerations for life sciences practitioners in the transactional, litigation, and patent disciplines.
In Apple v. Qualcomm, Federal Circuit Finds No Standing to Challenge Validity of a Few Patents When Many Were Licensed
The development timeline for small-molecule drugs and biologics is lengthy, estimated to take between 10 and 15 years. As a result, pharmaceutical companies need to consider freedom to operate issues long before they receive FDA approval or market their new product. These considerations might lead a company to take a license, seek to invalidate a competitor’s patent, or some combination of the two. The Patent Trial and Appeal Board (“PTAB”) is a popular venue for challenging patent validity and in 2020, Bio/Pharma and Chemical Patents accounted for 12% of petitions filed at the PTAB.
Reference product sponsors often obtain patents claiming methods of using a known drug to treat a condition or disease. Because generic and biosimilar developers typically do not treat patients, and thus do not directly infringe the claims, plaintiffs must sue under a theory of induced infringement—i.e., that the generic or biosimilar developer recommended, encouraged, or promoted a patented use for the drug. Demonstrating induced infringement most often involves the label of the defendant’s product, but increasingly may involve non-label evidence such as the defendant’s press releases, brochures, product catalogs, advertisements, and statements to the FDA, doctors, and investors. This non-label evidence is likely to be especially significant in the biologic context.
When a pharmaceutical company withdraws a product from the market, the basis for the withdrawal can affect whether a competitor can commercialize a generic version of that product. A generic cannot be approved if, in the FDA’s view, the product was withdrawn for “safety and effectiveness” reasons.
But how does the FDA reach that conclusion? A newly filed case may shed some light on the Agency’s decision-making process.
In the recent case of Amgen Inc. v. Sanofi, Aventisub LLC, the Federal Circuit affirmed the district court’s invalidation of certain of Amgen’s antibody patent claims, concluding that the claims were not “enable[d]” under 35 U.S.C. § 112. This decision establishes that it is more difficult to satisfy the enablement requirement for antibody claims that use functional language to describe the antibody. (The court granted Amgen’s motion to extend the deadline for filing a petition for panel rehearing and/or rehearing en banc until April 14, 2021. See id., Order (March 8, 2021).)
Recent Precedential Decisions Applying Fintiv
When a company is sued for patent infringement, often one early strategic consideration is whether to counterattack the patent’s validity at the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) in a parallel post-grant proceeding such as inter partes review (IPR) or post-grant review (PGR). Although the PTAB has recently conformed certain practices more closely to litigation—notably, its claim construction and indefiniteness standards—it remains a valuable venue for patent challengers seeking a relatively speedy, predictable, and cost-effective process.