US Supreme Court Overturns Federal Circuit’s Ruling Regarding Validity of Patent for Teva’s Copaxone

January 21, 2015

copaxone

Copaxone is a blockbuster drug based on the glatiramer acetate copolymer which was patented by Yeda (the Tech Transfer Company of the Weizman Institute) and licensed exclusively to Teva to manufacture.

On Tuesday 20 January 2014 the U.S. Supreme Court reversed an appeals court ruling that invalidated Teva Pharmaceutical Industries patent on the blockbuster multiple-sclerosis drug Copaxone, giving the drug maker a new opportunity to forestall generic competition.

The claims specify a particular molecular weight range but do not specify what method was used to measure the molecular weight. Sandoz argued that this is a fatal flaw and the claims are indefinite under §112. The District Court found for Teva, and was convinced by Teva’s argument that the claim clearly meant the “peak average molecular weight”, and not either of the two alternatives of “number average molecular weight” or “weight average molecular weight”.

On appeal, the Federal Circuit held to the contrary and found the patent invalid for indefiniteness. In reaching this conclusion, the Federal Circuit reviewed de novo all aspects of the District Court’s claim construction, including the District Court’s determination of subsidiary facts. The issue before the Supreme Court was whether that was permissible, or whether the Federal Circuit had impermissibly set aside the District Court’s findings of fact without the requisite finding of clear error on the part of the District Court (in violation of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 52(a)(6), for what it is worth). The Supreme Court of the USA accepted TEVA’s appeal that found that the Federal Circuit had indeed impermissibly conducted a de novo factual review. So the Federal Circuit’s decision was vacated and the case remanded.

The Supreme Court Decision ruling was made by seven judges with two dissenting. Justice Breyer gave the Opinion with Justices Roberts, Scalia, Kennedy, Ginsburg, Sotomayor and Kagan affirming. Justice Thomas filed a dissenting opinion which Justice Alito concurred with. According the majority opinion the Federal Circuit had indeed impermissibly conducted a de novo factual review. So the Federal Circuit’s decision was vacated and the case remanded. In the dissenting view, the opinion was that the Federal Circuit had not overturned findings of fact, but had instead formed a different conclusion of law as to the claim construction. Therefore, there had been no breach of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The case has been referred back to the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals.

COMMENT

The ruling will help TEVA prevent generic competitors from entering the Copaxone market until the patent expires in September. There seems to be a power struggle going on in the US court system with the Supreme Court reprimanding the Federal Circuit for assuming powers that are not rightfully theirs.


Double Patenting in Israel

January 15, 2015

novartis

The present ruling relates to the issue of identical of overlapping patents and patent applications, and examines the ramifications of double patenting.

IL 2039732 is a Divisional Application of IL 176831 “Compressed Pharmaceutical Tablets or Direct Compression Pharmaceutical Tablets Comprising DRR-IV Inhibitor Containing Particles and Processes for their Preparation”. Novartis have appealed a final Examiner’s rejection.

The Examiner considered that the parent and the divisional application are directed to the same invention. After this issue was first raised, the Applicant amended the claims, but the Examiner considered that the amended claim set (claims 1-23) covered the same invention as claims 23-26. Based on 5293/93 Welcome Foundation vs. Patent Commissioner (1993), the Examiner rejected the claims of the divisional application. A telephone conversation was to no avail. The Examiner issued a final rejection noting that there were substantive issues not addressed, whilst Applicant is appealing this decision claiming that the issue is one of interpretation of the law and has thus appealed to the commissioner.

The Commissioner held a hearing and allowed the Applicant to present a short summary of the comparative law in US, Europe, Australia, Japan, China and India. In this instance, the Examiner did not claim that the divisional had identical claims to the parent application, but that there was some overlap. According to the Commissioner, the issue is one of interpretation of Sections 2, 8 and 9 of the law. These state that an inventor is entitled to a patent, that a patent can only cover one invention and that where two or more applicants file for the same invention, the first to file is awarded the patent. The purpose of divisional applications is to prosecute additional inventions claimed within the same parent application.

In the Welcome case, claims 1-10 related to uses of a pharmaceutical preparation in the treatment of various diseases and claim 15 related to a method of preparation of the active ingredient.  Then Commissioner, the late Michael Ophir ruled a claim for use in preparing a medicament’ and ‘use in the treatment of’ were identical. He did not see that the application related to more than one invention. On appeal, Judge Winograd ruled that one can have one application for a material, a second one for the method of fabrication and a third one for uses, provided each application is directed to patentable subject matter and there is no overlap between the cases. There Judge Winograd went on to rule that one application cannot include more than one patentable invention, i.e. one should not award more than one patent for one invention, and this is a corollary of Section 8 that a patent should cover one invention. One can file a plurality of applications for a plurality of related patents provided that each one is directed to a patentable invention and the claims are not identical or overlapping.

In the present case, both the parent IL 176831 and the divisional application IL 203972 have the title. In IL 203972 there is one independent claim. Claims 23 and 24 of the parent IL 176831 each depend on claim 1, and claims 25 and 26 are dependent on claims 24 and 23 respectively. The independent claim of IL 203972 is directed to using a powder to form a pill for treating a wide range of ailments. Claims 23 – 26 of the parent IL 176831 are directed to forming tablets and a corresponding process. The divisional relates to various states that are not in the parent application, but both cases have the same specification. According to the Applicant, the parameters are identical but the parent claims the process whereas the divisional application claims use of the active ingredient to prepare a pharmaceutical.

According to the Examiner, the divisional application claims use of a formulation for treating a disease, where the formulation is given in claims 23-26 and the diseases treated are listed in claims 1-22. In both cases, the formulation is the same, the particle size is the same and the active ingredients and additives are the same as those given in claims 23-26 of the parent. Novatis found the Welcome decision poorly claimed and poorly reasoned and could not see why two applications could not claim identical or overlapping inventions. They argued that where applicants are the same, there is no need to relate to identical or significantly overlapping claims, holding that the Israel Patent Law does not prevent multiple patenting. Novartis argued that Section 2 is merely a declarative statement that the applicant may file a patent. It does not have legal ramifications, and certainly does not limit the number of patents that the applicant may file. Section 2 does include the word “one” and it should not be read into the claim such that one patent may be requested for one invention. Support for this interpretation is found by contrast to Section 9 which relates to different applicants with patent applications for the same invention.

The parties are in agreement that different applicants cannot be awarded separate patents for the same invention. Novartis holds that the same applicant can be awarded two or more patents for the same invention. The Examiner disagrees.  Novartis accepts that there is no economical justification or logic in an applicant having more than one patent, and even sees this behavior as unacceptable. However, so long as there is some difference between the two patents, it is legitimate to award the protection of both patents.

The commissioner upheld the Examiner’s conclusion and ruled that so long as there is nothing in claim 1 of the divisional that exceeds the scope of the claims of the parent, there is no reason to allow the divisional.

COMMENTS

In the US, the issue of double patenting is dealt with by filing a terminal disclaimer. Although that prevents extending a term of protection (sometimes  disparagingly called evergreening), it still has negative ramifications. Third-parties such as an alleged infringer may have to show that he is not infringing a number of overlapping patents. Likewise, a competitor may have to show a number of similar patents are invalid or not infringed. This places an unnecessary burden on third-parties.


Combining Similar Proceedings

November 19, 2014

combining hearings

C.T.S. LTD filed Israel trademark application numbers 2253382 and 253359 “Lactofil” and לקטופיל. The Mark covers Cosmetic preparations namely lotions, creams, mousses and soaps for nourishment and cleaning of the skin and face all in Class 3. “” Laboratorios Genesse, S.L. opposes the marks

Meanwhile, Laboratorios Genesse, SL. has filed Israel trademark application number 249389 for Lactivit for Soaps, gels, perfumery, essential oils, cosmetics, lotions for hair and skin care, creams for hair and skin care, and dentifrices also in Class 3. C.T. S. LTD are opposing this registration.

Both parties propose combining the hearings. The Lactofil hearing was scheduled for 29 October 2014.

The legal issue in both cases is likelihood of confusion with the similar product of the other party. The parties and the issues in both cases is the same. Combining the cases saves the parties time and expense, and saves judicial resources. In one case there are additional claims of inequitable behavior, but this is not seen as sufficient justification to hear the cases separately.

As both parties have equal rights, Ms Yaara Shoshani, Adjudicator at the Israel Patent and Trademark Office ruled the cases are to be combined, however in each case, at the combined hearing, the Opposer has the right to cross-examine the applicant’s witnesses and only then may the Opposer’s witnesses be cross-examined.

In the circumstances, no costs were awarded.

Decision to Combine Similar Trademark Proceedings, Yaara Shoshani Caspi 6 October 2014. 

COMMENT

Apart from the parties in question, there is a third party of importance, i.e. the public. It seems to me that combining the proceedings is not only economical for the parties and for the public purse in terms of judicial expense, but also is most likely to result in a sensible ruling.


Wyeth’s Patent Term Extension for Bazedoxifene Cancelled Prior to ReExamination

November 10, 2014
Rocking the boat...

Rocking the boat…

There was an amendment to the Israel Patent Law earlier this year. This amendment (11th amendment) relates to patent term extensions. The amendment was announced, but did not go into immediate effect.

Wyeth filed a request to correct a mistake in the Patent Extension Order concerning Israel Patent Number 120701. The extension Order was given on 23 February 2014, and extends the basic patent for Bazedoxifene which, without the extension, would have lapsed on 18 April 2017.  The intention to grant an extension until 26 August 2019 was given in October 2013 and published back then. The calculation was based on the Law prior to the eleventh amendment.

On 18 September 2014, Wyeth submitted a request to correct the Extension Order to provide protection according to the regime after the eleventh amendment.

Section 16 of the Amendment states:

16(a) this Law will apply to Extension Order requests that are pending before the Commissioner of Patents on the day that this Law comes into effect, and for future requests for patent term extension.

Wyeth’s contention is that the amendment to the Law came into effect on 27 January 2014 and due to the publication for opposition purposes, the period for opposition finished on 31 January 2014, so, at the time the Law came into affect no Patent Term Extension had been granted and the request for patent term extension for IL 120701 must, therefore, be considered as pending at the time the amendment came into effect.

The amendment narrowed down the list of countries that could be relied upon for Israel to grant a corresponding extension. Instead of anywhere in Europe that grants an extension, only Italy, UK, Germany, Spain and France could be taken into account. Significantly, Japan was no longer considered a relevant country in regards to patent term extensions. Wyeth’s patent was extended on the basis of the extension of the corresponding Japanese patent. By ignoring Japan, a longer term could be requested.

There is an interesting twist here. In October 2013, the FDA issued approval for Bazedoxifene together with conjugated estrogens as Duavee. This fact was not taken into account in calculating the Patent term Extension and could act against Wyeth. The Commissioner ruled that it would be improper to apply some sections of the amendment and not others, and that the Israel Patent Office should consider the ramifications of this FDA approval as well. In consequence, the Commissioner did not amend the ruling, but rather canceled it as a wrongfully given bureaucratic decision. He ruled that the published patent term extension was null and void and that the Application would be subjected to accelerated re-examination under the amended Law with the ramifications, if any, of the FDA approval of Duavee also considered.

Various legal precedents were given to support this contention and the solution it offered. The Commissioner noted that Patent Term Extensions are not final and could be reconsidered, even previous to the eleventh amendment.  He related to previous rulings concerning Teva vs. Abbott, Neurim, Lundbeck vs. Unipharm and Roche.

In addition to being able to oppose any subsequent patent term extension, the cancellation of the existing patent term extension may also be opposed by third parties.

Ruling Concerning Patent term extension to IL 120701 to Wyeth, 3 November 2014.


Israel Patent Opposition Suspended Pending Examination of a Divisional Application

October 22, 2014

boehringer       procrastinate

In another Patent Opposition, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries opposed Israel Patent Number 195030 titled “DPP IV INHIBITOR FORMULATIONS” to Boehringer Ingelheim International GMBH.

The patent published for opposition purposes on 30 September 2013 and an opposition was filed on 29 December 2013 and there is a pending Divisional application – IL 212841.

On 22 January 2014, the Opposer requested to suspend the Opposition process under Israel Patent Office Circular 020/2012 which allows suspension of Opposition processes whilst related applications are examined, provided that a detailed request to do is filed. The Opposer considers the claimed subject matter of the two cases as very similar. Although there are differences, these are minor. The Applicant accepts the similarity but does not consider this as in and of itself being a prima facie justification for suspending examination, and that at best this is grounds for a detailed request. Until such a request is filed, there is no basis to suspend the Opposition proceedings (which leaves the allowed patent in suspense, such that it cannot be enforced).

In ruling on this matter, the Commissioner (who drafted the original Circular) ruled that the existence of the Divisional Application was not, of itself, sufficient grounds to suspend the opposition. It is, in his opinion, too early to identify the claimed invention. However, under Section 24, the specification of a Divisional Application will invariably be very similar to that of the Parent Application, and this is the basis of the Opposer’s assumption that similar issues will arise in the Divisional application if it is allowed, and so suspension until that time to hear both cases together makes sense. The consideration as to whether or not to suspend the opposition is efficiency and the case is similar to other cases where an ongoing proceeding is suspended until another is decided. There is a Supreme Court precedent that relates to this issue: Appeal by authorization 3765/01 “HaPhoenix HaYisralei Insurance Company vs. Alexander Kaplan et al. (28 Jan 2002), where, in paragraph 3, it is stated that in the name of efficiency courts have the discretion to combine hearings, even where the parties are different. In the Opposition to IL 82910 Unipharm vs. Anktielofaget Hassle (1996) this principle is applied to patent cases; justification being Reg. 520 of the Civil Law Procedure. The purpose of suspension is thus to allow the apparently similar / related cases to be combined. The Opposer is correct that the currently pending claims of the Divisional Application are somewhat similar to those in the opposed patent.

It is important to consider the rights of third parties and other considerations than simply efficiency of combining from the perspective of the patent office. In this case, it is likely that the Opposer (TEVA) will oppose the divisional application, should it issue. In conclusion, the Commissioner agreed  to suspend the Opposition for 18 months and to then reconsider in light of developments concerning the divisional application.

COMMENT

There are certainly similarities between court cases and oppositions. There are, however, some pertinent differences. One does not suspend a court case pending a possible filing of a related case, only to wait for an ongoing case to issue.

Oppositions are complicated proceedings that take time. Indeed, a primary purpose of filing them is to prevent a patent from being enforceable. Suspending an opposition to claims that have been examined and allowed on the basis that some additional claims may eventually be allowed seems to be a punishment to the Applicant. It seems to me that the opposition to the allowed patent should be allowed to proceed, with statements in the Opposition filed by both the Applicant and the Opposer serving as estoppel in possible future oppositions of the divisional. Factual issues that are determined should be binding on the future hearing. If and when the divisional patent is allowed, and an opposition is filed, overlapping grounds could be co-joined to this opposition and new grounds could be heard separately. I therefore consider this ruling to be wrong.

I have thus somewhat surprised myself by coming out in favour of the pharma Applicant and against the generic Opposer.  I console myself in that in this case the issue is one of legal principle and not one of novelty or inventiveness / obviousness. I am against evergreening, but I am also against misuse of the patent opposition system to prevent patents from issuing by uneccessary time-wasting.  Comments, anyone?


IL 136294 to Pharmacia and Upjohn Successfully Opposed by Teva

October 20, 2014

Pharmacia

Pharmacia and Upjohn filed IL 136294, titled “Use of tolterodine, its 5-hydroxymethyl metabolite or racemate thereof in the preparation of medicaments for treating unstable or overactive urinary bladder”. On 6 May 2004, Teva filed an opposition.

The Application was a national phase entry of PCT/SE99/01463 which claimed priority from SE 9802864-0 and SE 9802871-4 filed on 27 August and 11 November 1998 respectively.

On 11 June 2003, a Divisional Application (IL 156414) was filed. Following the publication of patent office circular M.N. 23, the Opposition was frozen pending Examination of the Divisional Application. On 20 March 2006 the Divisional Application was abandoned and the file closed, and the Opposition procedure in the parent application was restarted.

On 19 June 2006, Teva submitted a detailed Opposition and Upjohn filed a counterclaim on 13 November 2006. Following submission of evidence, counter-evidence and responses, a hearing was held on 1 and 2 April 2009 before then Commissioner, Dr Meir Noam.

After the hearing, the parties submitted their concluding remarks between 21 April 2010 and 26 January 2012, after Dr Noam’s term of office finished. The Present Commissioner, Asa Kling, ruled on the case under regulation 202a, on the basis of the material in the file.

According to the Commissioner, the Opposition is two-fold. The Opposers argue that there is no inventive step in contravention to Section 5 of the Patent Law, and that the claimed invention is a method of treatment of Man and thus contrary to Section 7.

The Opposer, Teva, submitted their evidence via an opinion of Professor Danon. The applicant, Upjohn, submitted their evidence via an Opinion from Professor Abrams and a statement of Dr Wood. Teva submitted counter-claims via a second affidavit of Prof. Danon and an opinion by Professor Mor.

The patent relates to a treatment for sufferers of unstable or overactive urinary bladder. The problem is caused by a lack of control of smooth muscles around the bladder that receive electronic stimulation. The standard treatment at the time of filing involved desensitizing the nerves with tolterodine or oxybotynin. Both desensitizers had various adverse side effects including dryness of mouth. In minimizing this side effect, tolterodine was preferable to oxybotynin. Tolterodine is (R)-N, N-diisopropyl-3-(2-hydroxy-5-methylphenyl)-3-phenylpropanamine, where R indicates the Right handed enantiomer, and S, the sinister, or left handed enantiomer which does not work. The two desensitizers and the enantiomers are discussed in the specification.

The Application as allowed had 17 claims, of which claims 1, 8, 16 and 17 are independent.

Claim 1 is as follows:

  1. Use of tolterodine, its 5-hydroxymethyl metabolite or the recemate corresponding to tolterodine, or a pharmaceutically acceptable salt thereof, in a pharmaceutically effective amount thereof through a controlled release formulation capable of maintaining a substantially constant serum level of the active moiety or moieties for at least 24 hours, wherein the 24-hour serum profile, expressed as the AUC of unbound tolterodine and 5-hydroxymethyl metabolite, is form 5 to about 150 nM*h, for the manufacture of a therapeutical formulation for treating unstable or overactive urinary bladder, substantially as described in the specification.

Claim 16 is similar, but includes the following limiting feature:

… with reduced undesirable side effects and with no reduction in the efficiency of the tolterodine compound…

Claim 8 is as follows:

  1. A pharmaceutical formulation containing tolterodine, its 5-hydroxymethyl metabolite or the recemate corresponding to tolterodine, or a pharmaceutically acceptable salt thereof, which formulation when administered to patient provides controlled release of said tolterodine its 5-hydroxymethyl metabolite or the recemate corresponding to tolterodine, or a pharmaceutically acceptable salt thereof, such that a substantially constant serum level of the active moiety or moieties is maintained foe at least 24 hours, wherein the 24-hour serum profile, expressed as the AUC of unbound tolterodine and 5-hydroxymethyl metabolite, is form 5 to about 150 nM*h.

Claim 17 follows claim 8 , but includes the following limiting feature:

…for efficacious therapy with reduced undesirable side effects…

In order to ascertain inventive step or non-obviousness, the standard is that of a person of the art. Professor Danon and Dr Wood are pharmacologists. Professor Mor and Professor Abrams are urologists. Both sides argued whether in this case the person of the art to determine non-obviousness would need to be would need to be a pharmacologist, a urologist or a team including both skills. Accroding tot he Commissioner, this question may be answered by reference to Former Supreme Court President Shamgar in 345/87 Hughes Aircraft vs. State of Israel P.D. 44(4) 45 (1990) as including a person or team with knowledge of relevant subject matter but no creative ability. The Opposer (Teva) considers the person of the art to be a pharmacologist specializing in the relationship between active ingredients and the human body. The Applicant considers that persons of the art may be a team including pharmacologists and doctors of the relevant speciality, which in this case includes urologists.

The Applicants distinguish between the pharmacological and the pharmo-kinetical aspects of the invention, which in their words, are directed to a pharmacologist or formulator, and the medicinal aspects of the drug which are directed to a urologist. Professor Abram’s opinion follows this distinction.

“Obviously, once the pharmaceutical invention is made… pharmacokinetic and pharmacologic considerations become relevant. However, unless the pharmaceutical invention is made first, the pharmacologist is not a relevant person.”

According to the Applicant, the motivation to develop a drug is based on medical needs and so the application is primarily directed to the urologist, and other professionals, such as pharmacologists are consulted only once the drug is being developed to answer a specific medical need.

The Opposer considers that the medical need is the problem to be solved, and the person to be consulted to solve the problem is the person the art. Support for this position is found in “Patents for Inventions” by T.A. Blanco White, 5th Edition page 90:

“In principle, it would seem clear that the proper people to think of in judging obviousness are those who would in practice be called upon to solve problems of the sort concerned.”

Furthermore, the Expert for the Applicant Professor Abrams himself stated that the urologist might identify the clinical condition and would describe it to the pharmacologist, which strengthens the position that the person of the art is, in fact, the pharmacologist.

The Commissioner ruled that the person of the art is indeed the pharmacologist, although the urologist might well initiate the process of developing a drug.

Support for this was found in Alza Corporation vs. Mylan, a US ruling concerning urine leakage, where it was stated that:

“In their post-trial memoranda, the parties do not directly dispute the level of ordinary skill in the art at the time of the ‘355 patent’s filing. Thus, based on the testimony of Dr. Amidon and Dr. Peppas, the Court finds that a person of ordinary skill in the art has either an advanced degree in pharmacy, biology, chemistry or chemical engineering and has at least two years of experience with controlled-release drug technologies, or possesses a bachelor’s degree in one (or more) of the same fields and has at least five years of experience with controlled-release drug technologies.”

Consequently, the Commissioner ruled that whilst a urologist could be included in the team, the persons of the art defining obvious would include a pharmacologist.

As far as inventive step is concerned, the issue in question boils down to whether something would have been considered obvious by a pharmacologist, or by a team consisting of a pharmacologist and a urologist.

Both sides agreed that:

  1. As of the priority date both tolterodine or oxybotynin in instant release form were being used to treat unsteady or over-active bladders. Furthermore, oxybotynin was also being used in a controlled release form.
  2. It was understood that oxybotynin caused more serious side effects of dry-mouth and thus tolterodine was the preferred treatment.
  3. Dry mouth symptoms of tolterodine were most prevalent when tolterodine was at its highest concentration in the blood.
  4. It was already established that tolterodine had a positive effect on unsteady or over-active bladders after its effect on saliva forming and the symptoms of dry-mouth had disappeared.
  5. Moving from instant release to slow release formulations may not be successful for treatment of unsteady or over-active bladders and the efficacy required clinical trials.
  6. The Applicants considered that the minimal problems of dry mouth associated with tolterodine in quick release form were such that there was no motivation to develop a slow release version of the drug. Furthermore, slow release Oxybotynin did not have less slide effects than the quick release version so the urologist would be likely to conclude that slow release tolterodine would behave in a similar fashion.

Finally, according to the Applicants, it transpires that the slow release tolderine is actually more effective. This is not supported by the specification and is first raised as a consideration in the Applicant’s statement of claims. There is no evidence that Applicant was previously aware of this point.

The Applicant does not claim that this fact is relevant to the issue of inventiveness, but the commissioner nevertheless emphasizes that such post filing revelations are irrelevant to the issue of inventive step (non-obviousness) and the Applicant can’t turn the clock back. There has to be an inventive step at the time of the priority filing (albeit, possibly one discovered by accident).

The parties now debated a very interesting point. Regardless of the surprising improvement of the not particularly serious dry mouth side effect, according to Teva there was a drive towards creating a slow release version of the treatment since this would enable taking a pill once a day instead of twice a day. They consider this fact self-evident and not requiring scientific proof.

Upjohn countered that this advantage of merely reducing the dosing frequency would not have warranted a switch to a controlled release treatment. They considered that the frequency of dosage was a minor issue for chronically ill patients and thus with the anticipation of increased side-effects, the drug developer would have no drive to develop a controlled release version. Citing Goldstein and Kalman:

“Certainly the oral ingestion of a drug 3 or 4 times daily presents no hardship to the patient; the substitution of a single daily dose of a sustained-release preparation would not be warranted unless some advantage other than convenience had been demonstrated.”

The Commissioner rejected this argument, preferring Glaxo group LTD’s Patent [2004] R. P. C. 843:

“That salmeterol would be the obvious substitution for salbutamol follows from the most basic consideration, that a drug that only needs to be taken twice a day will encourage compliance.”

And

“…the patent must be invalid, because I consider that the problem of compliance has, on the evidence, always been a problem.”

The Opposer considered that despite possible problems in achieving, it is obvious to try to reduce the dosage frequency, and thus a mere change in dosage frequency achieved by a coating is not inventive.

The Applicant countered that the development of a slow-release version warranted a patent since there were many cases where controlled release was less than successful, and they brought three examples of this.

The Opposer showed why the three examples were all exceptions to the rule and the commissioner felt that the onus was on the Applicant to show why this instance should be considered inventive.

Both parties accepted that tolterodine was preferable because of its lesser severe side effect of dry mouth. The Applicant considered that this being reduced further by controlled release dosages was patentable.

“According to the present invention it is now surprisingly been found that contrary to the case of oxybutynin, the substantial elimination of peak serum levels of tolterodine and its active metabolite through controlled release of tolterodine for an extended period of time, such as through a once-daily administration form, while maintaining the desired effect on the bladder, indeed gives a significant reduction of the (already low) side effects, particularly dry mouth, compared with those obtained for the same total dosage of immediate release tablets over same period.”

The commissioner noted that Upjohn had stated that this was a surprising discovery, but that they had not actually explained why this was the case. He noted that the Opposers reasoned that if regular tolterodine has lower dry mouth side effects than oxybutynin, this would remain the case with quick release versions.

The commissioner felt that the Applicants had not explained why, despite the fact that occasionally slow-release preparations might have unwarranted side effects or efficacy issues, it would not have been obvious to try to reduce the frequency of the dosage to once a day only.

Furthermore, earlier patent WO098/03067 notes that the S-enantiomer is preferable to the R-enantiomer and suggests a more frequent dosage or a controlled release. On this point, the Applicant tried to argue that since the current application relates to the S-enantiomer only, the earlier patent was irrelevant. Furthermore, the earlier patent suggests multiple frequent dosages which teaches away from the present invention. The commissioner did not find these arguments persuasive and still considered it would be have been obvious to try.

The Opposer considered the experimental evidence as totally anticipated by persons of the art and that there was nothing surprising in it.

The cut and thrust of the parties is reported in depth, but the general tendency of the Commissioner is to uphold the ruling in IL109059 F. Hoffmann-La Roche AG vs. AGIS Industries (1983) LTD from 17.10.2004 that it would have been obvious -to-try.

“First a route may still be an obvious one to try even if it is not possible to be sure that taking it will produce success, or sufficient success to make it commercially worthwhile.” (Brugger v. Medic-Aid Ltd., [1996] R.P.C 635 at 661)

“… Whether the subject matter was obvious may depend upon whether it was obvious to try in the circumstances of that particular case and in those circumstances it will be necessary to take into account the expectation of achieving a good result. But that does not mean that in every case the decision whether a claimed invention was obvious can be determined by deciding whether there was reasonable expectation that a person might get a good result from trying a particular avenue research. Each case depends upon the invention and the surrounding facts. No formula should be substituted for the words of the statute. In every case the court has to weight up the evidence and decide whether the invention was obvious. This is the statutory task.” (Norton Healthcare v. Beecham Group Plc, CA, (1997)) ([2004] R.P.C. 43 at para 42)

Consequently, the claimed invention was found to be obvious and the Opposition was accepted.

Opposition by Teva to IL 136294 Pharmacia and Upjohn, Assa Kling, 30 September 2014.

COMMENTS

I am neither a pharmacologist nor an urologist, (although I do enjoy taking the $%*& against poor decisions occasionally). It is established that the standard of inventiveness of obvious to try. Both sides accept (at least tacitly) that when taking tolterodine, once the problem of dry mouth is addressed, it would be obvious to try a slow release formulation, so the solution is fairly obvious. The question remains whether identification of the problem as a problem is worthy of a patent. Here the pro-pharma lobby will stand on their chairs and wave banners that of course this is patentable, whereas the generic side of the industry will have serious reservations. This may not just be a question of who pays one’s bills. It is at least possible that attorneys and scientists with different philosophies get drawn to the different market sectors that reflect their look on life.

Having a general background in chemistry but no background in pharmacology I tend to side with the generic industry. I suspect that most impartial patent attorneys with backgrounds in computing or engineering would find the Applicant’s arguments tortuous and unconvincing.

One question not addressed is why they chose to try to develop a controlled release version if there was no a priori assumption of it being preferable? (If the answer is ever-greening, is this acceptable, or is it obvious to try to keep a drug patent protected indefinitely?

Arguably the standard of obvious to try is to high, but it is the standard that Dr Meir Noam, the previous commissioner set. He was a chemist.

The present commissioner, Asa Kling is an aeronautical engineer.  He is no more a person of the art than I am. Nevertheless, his position as commissioner requires him to decide who the person of the art is, what is the standard for inventiveness and particularly whether identifying the issue of this side effect is in and of itself an inventive step. Really the issue is one of policy. The drug development industry will no doubt cry out that the Israeli standard is too high, whilst the generic industry will be more supportive of this ruling. If this ruling is appealed to the courts, the Commissioner’s determination will be scrutinized.

 


Laches in Amending Claims During a Patent Opposition Procedure

October 19, 2014

Zometa

Novartis Pharma filed Israel Patent Number 153229 titled “Use of 1-Hydroxy – 2 – (Imadazol-1-YL) Ethane – 1, 1 – Diphosphonic Acid in the Preparation of A Medicament for the Treatment of Conditions of Abnormally Increased Bone Turnover”.

The Application was allowed and published for Opposition purposes on 24 July 2007, and Teva filed an opposition on 23 October 2007.

After the Opposer filed their statement of case, the Applicant requested to correct the specification. The Opposer did not oppose the amendment, but following it, filed an amended statement of case. During 2011 and 2012 the opposition proceeded. On 10 April 2014 the applicant requested to amend the specification a second time. The amendment consisted of canceling claim 1 and dependent claims 2-5 and amending claims 6 and 7. The basis for the amendment was that the UK court had voided the corresponding patent, allegedly on formalistic and technical grounds, but to forward the discussion in Israel, the Applicant wanted to  amend the specification by canceling these claims.

Teva opposed the amendment, arguing laches and inequitable behavior since it was years since they’d filed their statement of case. They further claimed that the UK court had voided the patent due to the priority date and not on formalistic grounds. The UK Court of First Instance had issued their ruling over a year earlier, and this should be taken into account when considering the request to amend the application. This consideration was strengthened by the Opposition to Israel Patent 324844 Gradstan LTD vs Bristol Myers Squibb (6 March 1979). Furthermore, the request to amend the claims was not supported by an affidavit, and this was further grounds for refusing the request.

Novartis counter-claimed that the Appeal to the UK Supreme Court had only issued on 10 July 2014 and therefore there were no laches or inequitable behavior. Furthermore, if an affidavit was required, the applicant would be happy to provide one.

Teva countered that the flaws requiring correction were stated in the statement of case and Novartis should have corrected their application at the first opportunity which was over four years earlier.

THE RULING

The main argument is whether there is a statute of limitations or laches for amending a specification after allowance and before grant. The Opposer cited a very old case from 1979 to argue that this couldn’t be allowed, whereas the applicant cited the more recent Opposition to IL 101537 Merck and Co. vs. Unipharm Inc. (30 April 2003).

The Deputy Commissioner noted that she had ruled on the grounds for post allowance amendments under Sections 29, 65 and 66 f the Law in Reva vs. Astellas Pharma and in Rafael vs. Elta, both from May 2014.

The ability to amend the claims provides an advantage to the applicant, but it also results in side skirmishes that hold up the issuance of the patent, to the advantage of the opposer and to the detriment of the applicant.

In this instance, the request to amend the claims comes after the submission of evidence, at the stage of the hearing. However, this was justified by the UK ruling only now being made final.

Nevertheless, the request could have been made some months ago and wasn’t. No explanation was given. Although the ongoing Opposition prevents a patent from issuing (and being enforceable), it also provides uncertainty to competitors and the awarding costs only partially mitigates this.

The Gradstan case was exceptional in that five years had passed from when the applicant knew that the specification should be amended and, according to the then commissioner (Yoel Tsur?) the proposed amendment did not achieve its purpose.

In Merck vs. Unipharm the then commissioner (presumably Dr Meir Noam) ruled that even where there is a delay, the applicant should be able to amend the specification unless there is inequitable behavior or the applicant had previously fought tooth and nail for the wider claim set.

The Applicant’s reason for the delay (pending final ruling in the UK) is prima facie justification to wait until now. Hence, the delay is a matter of months, not four years and awarding costs is a fair way to compensate the Opposer.

There is no argument that the amendment is one that narrows the scope of protection since claims 1-5 are canceled and claims 6 and 7 are also narrowed since they specify a range of doses for menopausal women and the amended ranges are within the original ranges. The amended claims are also both fully supported by the specification.

As to the requirement for an affidavit, Ms Bracha ruled that this is required to support a factual matter about which there is some dispute. In this matter, that is not the case. Both sides agree when the original UK ruling was and when the Appeal ruling made it final.

CONCLUSION

The requested amendment is allowed and will publish for third-party oppositions. Absent such oppositions, the Opposer may file a corrected statement of claims within one month. If he does not wish to correct the statement of claims, he should alert the patent office of this within that month, and a hearing will be scheduled to examine the evidence.

Since this is the second request to correct the application and was filed some months after it transpired that there was a need to amend the claims, the Deputy Commissioner ruled costs of 3000 Shekels and attorneys fees of 30,000 Shekels + VAT. Furthermore, should the Opposer choose to amend their statement of case and to correct their evidence, they will be entitled to further costs regardless of the ultimate outcome of the proceedings

COMMENT

The active ingredient seems to be Zoledronic acid and the drug in question appears to be Zometa®.

This ruling seems fair.

Refusing to allow a patent to be amended due to the request not being supported by an affidavit seems to me to be formalistic. I would not consider a problem with the priority date as merely formalistic though.


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