The U.S. Supreme Court on May 18, 2023 delivered its decision on the scope of the patent enablement requirement, set forth in 35 U.S.C. § 112, in the antibody dispute Amgen, Inc. v. Sanofi. While the parties obtained finality, many in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries received the opinion under a cloud of uncertainty and concern for exclusivity rights broad enough to both protect clinical candidates and deter competitors. While the patent bar may remain apprehensive, the Supreme Court kept the door open to genus claims. The impact of the decision may not be as far-reaching as feared.
In three previous blog posts, we have discussed recent inventorship issues surrounding Artificial Intelligence (“AI”) and its implications for life sciences innovations – focusing specifically on scientist Stephen Thaler’s attempt to obtain a patent for an invention created by his AI system called DABUS (“Device for Autonomus Bootstrapping of Unified Sentence). Most recently, we considered Thaler’s appeal of the September 3, 2021 decision out of the Eastern District of Virginia, which ruled that under the Patent Act, an AI machine cannot qualify as an “inventor.” Continuing this series, we now consider the USPTO’s recently filed opposition to Thaler’s appeal.
In one of the first district court opinions applying the Federal Circuit’s recent GSK decision on induced infringement in the context of label carve-outs (the “GSK decision,” discussed here and here), Judge Richard Andrews in the District of Delaware held that plaintiff Amarin Pharma (“Amarin”) failed to plead facts sufficient to show that Hikma Pharmaceuticals’ (“Hikma”) carved-out product label and/or public marketing statements induced infringement of Amarin’s patents. The holding suggests that carved-out labels (so-called “skinny labels), despite the GSK decision, continue to provide some measure of protection from liability based on induced infringement.
Our previous blog posts, Artificial Intelligence as the Inventor of Life Sciences Patents? and Update on Artificial Intelligence: Court Rules that AI Cannot Qualify As “Inventor,” discuss recent inventorship issues surrounding AI and its implications for life sciences innovations. Continuing our series, we now look at the appeal recently filed by Stephen Thaler (“Thaler”) in his quest to obtain a patent for an invention created by AI in the absence of a traditional human inventor.
Doctrine of equivalents (DOE) can be applied as a mechanism to hold a party liable for patent infringement even if the product or process does not literally infringe a patent claim, if the difference is “insubstantial”. Warner-Jenkinson Co. v. Hilton Davis Chem. Co. (1997) Findings of infringement under DOE, particularly in biotechnology related cases, have often been considered an exception rather than the rule. One such exception is the recent Federal Circuit nonprecedential decision in Jennewein Biotechnologie GmbH v. International Trade Commission, September 17, 2020, Chen, R. (Glycosyn LLC, the patent owner, joined as an Intervenor). The Federal Circuit affirmed an exclusion order from the International Trade Commission (ITC) relying on an application of DOE to find infringement supported by substantial evidence.
Striking a blow to patent applicants seeking to assert inventorship by artificial intelligence (“AI”) systems, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia ruled on September 3, 2021 that an AI machine cannot qualify as an “inventor” under the Patent Act. The fight is now expected to move to the Federal Circuit on appeal.
On August 5, 2021, the Federal Circuit withdrew its October 2020 opinion in GSK v. Teva, summarized in this post on induced infringement of method-of-treatment claims, and issued an opinion that reiterated the prior holding but sought to clarify its reasoning. GlaxoSmithKline v. Teva. Specifically, the majority stated that a generic manufacturer’s touting of AB equivalence to a brand drug is generally not evidence of intent to induce infringement—but in the specific facts of this case it did support inducement, because the Court found ample evidence tying claim limitations to statements in Teva’s label even though the patented method was omitted as a distinct indication. The Court also found that Teva’s advertising statements regarding treating “heart failure” evidenced intent to induce physicians to prescribe the drug to treat CHF.
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.
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.
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.