Patent claim limitations that are “negative”—that is, claim limitations specifying the absence of a particular element from the patent claim—can pose a dilemma in the written description context. How much of the specification should be devoted to something that is not supposed to be part of the claim? The answer may be none at all according to a recent Federal Circuit decision, Novartis Pharmaceuticals v. Accord Healthcare Inc. The key, according to the decision, is that the specification should not describe the negative limitation in a manner inconsistent with how it is used in the claim.
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.
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.
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).)