Applicant Successfully Has Allowance of Patent Application Cancelled, Following Initiation of Opposition Proceedings

reexaminationUsually an Opposition results in an allowed patent being either cancelled, upheld or having its claim-set narrowed. Apparently, not always!

Israel Patent Application No. 240684 titled “GLYCOPYRROLATE SALTS” was filed by Dermira Inc on 19 August 2015. It is the national phase entry of PCT/US2014/19552 and so the effective filing date is 28 February 2014. It claims priority from two provisional applications and from two regular US applications, but the earliest priority claimed was 28 February 2013.

On 18 October 2015, the Applicants petitioned to make special under Section 19(a)(a)(2) of the Patent Law 1967 and requested allowance under Section 17c based on US 9,004,462.

After the application was allowed and published for Opposition purposes, S0l-gel Technologies ltd. opposed the patent issuing. They noted that the case had been allowed under Section 17c, but this was incorrect since the two regular US applications from which priority was claimed were continuations-in-part of US 13/781,390 which published on 15 August 2013.

In the US, the earlier patent application to which material is added in a Continuation-in-Part cannot be cited against the Continuation-in-Part. It is a little like a Patent-of-Addition in Israel.

Since priority is NOT claimed from US 13/781,390 which published 15 August 2013, it is prior art to IL 240684 since its publication precedes the filing of PCT/US2014/19552 on 28 February 2014. Consequently, as far as Israel is concerned, US 13/781,390 could be cited as prior art against IL 240684 and so allowance under Section 17c was wrong, as there is presumption of validity since US 13/781,390 (now US 8,558,008) was not prior art in the US, but is prior art against the Israel application.

Here’s the odd thing. US 13/781,390 was itself filed on 28 February 2013, so the PCT could have claimed priority from it!

In their statement fo case, the Opposer requested that the allowance be cancelled and the case returned to the Examiner for examination on its merits in light of the prior art (including US 13/781,390). The Applicant (represented by Pearl Cohen) agreed with this suggestion.

In his ruling, the Commissioner, Asa Kling, noted that only rarely can an allowed patent be returned to the Examiner. Patent prosecution is a one way street, and after allowance, the Examiner is no longer part of the process. Generally, opposed patents are either invalidated as lacking novelty and inventiveness, or the scope of their claims is narrowed, or, the opposition is overcome or withdrawn and the patent as allowed, is granted.

In this instance, both sides agree to the allowance being withdrawn and to the claims being (re)considered on their merits by the examiner in light of the prior art, including  US 13/781,390, thereby avoiding costly opposition proceedings.

The commissioner noted that agreement of the parties is not generally enough for odd solutions, due to their being a public interest. Generally one does not return an allowed patent application to the Examiners since the public is always third-party to such proceedings. See the ruling on request to cancel allowance of IL 219586 Fritz Collischan GMBH vs. Data Detection Technologies Inc., 9 March 2015, paragraphs 9 and 10 of the ruling.

However, it is clear that the Section 17c assumptions detailed in the Albermarle ruling do not apply here as inventiveness over US 13/781,390 was not considered by the US Examiner as it was not an issue in the States, and so the IPO cannot rely on the US Examiner’s ability, professionalism and integrity in this instance. In the circumstances, for the sake of efficiency, it was deemed appropriate to reexamine rather than to conduct an opposition. The Commissioner allowed the Section 17c allowance to be withdrawn and the case to be returned to the examiners for substantive examination on the merits.

The cancellation of the allowance now publishes for opposition purposes. Costs of 2500 Shekels are awarded to the Opposers; the low sum reflecting the early stage reached.

COMMENT

In this instance, the PCT application could and should have claimed priority from US 13/781,390. The  Opposers could have claimed both invalidity over US 13/781,390 and / or inequitable behaviour in requesting allowance under Section 17c from a continuation in part. There is a public interest in technologies remaining in the public domain. Thus I think this decision could be challenged in an opposition. Still, doing so takes resources and would incur costs. For the same reason that S0l-gel Technologies ltd seem happy with reexamination, I suspect that noone else will file an opposition to this ruling.

3 Responses to Applicant Successfully Has Allowance of Patent Application Cancelled, Following Initiation of Opposition Proceedings

  1. Sharon says:

    it would seem that the easiest fix here is to petition for amendment of the filing form and addition of the omitted priority claim from the US application that the 4 CIPs arised from, per section 23(b) of the patent regulations.
    otherwise the entire IL application is (fatally) deferred to the international filing date as none of those 4 applications constitute a “first” application in the meaning of section 10 of the IL Patent Law, regardless of when the publication of the earliest of the bunch was made.
    however if for some reason this does not work there might still be subject matter introduced in the CIPs that could still survive and perhaps even justify a patent, though not very likely.
    at the time i wrote a thourough analysis of the Albermarle decision here: http://patent.glazberg.com/2011/04/136482-albermarle-corporation-usa.html (in Hebrew)

  2. Paul says:

    Although it may be (I haven’t checked) that in THIS case the earlier patent application to which material was added in a CIP could not be cited as prior art against the CIP, be careful: It is incorrect to say “In the US, the earlier patent application to which material is added in a Continuation-in-Part cannot be cited against the Continuation-in-Part.” If the CIP is filed after the earlier application has published (and even more so if it is filed more than a year after the earlier application has published), then the published earlier application CAN be (and often is) cited as prior art against the CIP.
    That is, the CIP claim itself doesn’t eliminate the earlier application as prior art. If the earlier application is prior art, then it is. And if it’s not, it’s not.

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