Israel Patent No. 164987 to Bristol-Myers Squibb is titled ” PROLINE DERIVATIVES AND PHARMACEUTICAL COMPOSITIONS CONTAINING THE SAME”. On 9 January 2017, the relevant Examiner calculated that the patent was entitled to a 479 day extension. The patentee has appealed this calculation.
The patentee’s representative submitted his calculation and a hearing was held on 28 May 2017. Following the hearing, the Deputy Commissioner accepted the arguments and ruled that the extension should be 679 days.
The patent term extension is for the active ingredient of Sunvepra which is asunaprevir. The Application for a patent term extension was under section 64(o) of the Israel Patent Law. The Applicant notes that the drug is not marketed in any of the relevant States as per section 64(a) and so the period of protection should be calculated on the basis of Section 64(i)(b) as follows:
If the registration is only requested in Israel, the patent term extension will be in force for a period equivalent to that from when the request for registration was submitted to when approval occurred, so long as the Applicant acted equitably and with appropriate efficiency.
The disagreement between the Examiner and the Applicant concerns the proper interpretation of the term approval as used to indicate the period of the extension. There is consensus that this period starts with the submission for regulatory approval, but the end of this period is disputed. The Examiner considered that this period terminates with the registration of the medication in the register of medical formulations as per section 47a of the Pharmaceutical Ordinance 1981. The patentee contends that the date should be the date on which approval for sale of the drug occurs.
In accordance with Section 64a of the Law, the term approval is defined in section (b)1 of the Law in the same manner as in section 54a as follows:
In this Section, ‘approval’ is authorization or permission or other document needed to sell the product.
The Legislative was aware of the difference between the term רישוי meaning approval and רישום meaning registration. The term רישום (registration) is used in sections 64(d)2 and 64(d)3. The meaning of the term רישום (registration) is registration in the Register of Medical Formulations under section 47a of the the Pharmaceutical Ordinance.
The term רישוי (approval) used by the legislative for calculating patent term extensions is wider and includes all approvals needed to market the product. Where the product is a medical device there is no disagreement that after registration in the register there are other approvals necessary before a product can be marketed to the public. These approvals are listed in regulations 14-18 of the Regulations or Pharmacists (formulations) 1986 and we are concerned with the first of these in regulation 14:
No one may market a formulation for the first time in Israel unless it is from a batch that receives marketing approval from the manager.
The Examiner himself was aware that to marketing approval was required in addition to registration as is clear from his letter of 6 September 2016. There is no doubt that this marketing approval was only signed on 4 September 2016 as is clear from the appendix to the Affidavit of Ms Talya Ben-David, Brostol-Myer Squibb’s regulatory manager in Israel. So although the formulation was registered from 18 February 2016, it was only approved for marketing some 200 days later.
The Applicant’s understanding of the Law is ‘technical’. As is clear from the Appeal to the Jerusalem District Court 223/09 Lundbeck vs. Unipharm (25 May 2009) regarding understanding terminology of the Law:
One can therefore say that the substantive scope of considerations that the Commissioner may use when determining the period of protection is different from that when considering a patent application. Deciding whether an invention is patentable is by nature discretionary in that it requires ascertaining novelty, inventiveness, utility, etc. In contradistinction, when determining the appropriate patent term extension, the Commissioner is limited to considering the formal requirements of the Law, without consideration of the way the invention works or the Applicant’s investment in inventing, developing and registering. This is what the legislative body decided was the appropriate way to balance the conflicting interests when providing patent term extensions. The burden on the Commissioner is technical and is designed to be objective.
It so happens that this technical calculation also corresponds to the purpose of the Law which is to compensate the Applicant for regulatory delays whilst enabling competitors to test and develop their generic equivalents without infringing the patent.
Section 54a of the Law, legislated as an amendment to the 1967 Law, cancels the de facto extension of products requiring approval (particularly drugs), by enabling generic competitors to prepare for and obtain regulatory approval whilst the patent is in force and to launch their products immediately on the patent lapsing. In compensation for this change, the patentees were allowed to obtain patent term extensions. The extension is not for the whole patent but only prevents manufacturing and sale of the medical formulation that includes the material covered by the patent (Section 64(h)d of the Law). Just as the de facto extension for regulatory approval is needed to market the drugs, so the compensation for the drug developers, by enabling patent term extensions, is tied to approvals. The patent term extension is needed to compensate the patentees for “the period that has passed until the patentee receives approval from the Israel Office”. See also the words of explanation for the fourth amendment to the Patent Law (use and patent term extension) 1997, Draft Law 2664 page 146 onwards.
Although the Israel Law is not identical to the arrangements reached in the US and in Europe, it seems that there also, the patent term extension is calculated from the time that all approvals are received. See for example Section 14 of the Medical REGULATION (EC) No 469/2009 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL concerning the supplementary protection certificate for medicinal products of 6 May 2009:
“The certificate shall take effect at the end of the lawful term of the basic patent for a period equal to the period which elapsed between the date on which the application for a basic patent was lodged and the date of the first authorisation to place the product on the market in the Community, reduced by a period of five years.”
See also 35 USC 156 which deals with determining the “regulatory review period for the approved product” and also the words of explanation for the 13th amendment of the Patent Law 2012:
“The approval of the extension period for patents for medical formulations and medical devices of the type given in the US (Patent Term Extensions PTE) under Section 156 of Volume 35 of the US Code. This approval extends the US patent for delays in obtaining regulatory approval for marketing medical formulations and medical devices that occur after the patent issues, and half of the period for clinical trials for the same medical formulations and medical devices, with deductions from this period for tardiness by the patentee in obtaining such regulatory approval. The period of the Approval given in the US under the US Law cannot exceed five years and cannot extend beyond fourteen years from the first marketing approval of that medical formulation or medical device.
However, reference to foreign laws is not required since the term ‘approval’ in Section 64(i)2 is clear and unambiguous:.
The proceeding for considering the request for a patent term extension
Section 64(o)b provides a very short period for examining requests for patent term extensions. This short period obligates fast examination and does not allow back and forth exchanges between the Examiner and the Applicant.
The examination of the patent term extension request commenced on 6 September 2016. In an Office Action the Examiner explained that the Application did not accord with Section 64(d)(3) of the Law since at the time of the Application, there was no regulatory approval in Israel, so he considered that the registration did not allow the formulation to be legally marketed.
The Applicant challenged this ruling before the Commissioner but this before this was substantively considered, an Affidavit was submitted that showed that marketing approval was given on 4 September 2016 and so the Commissioner ordered the request to be examined.
On 8 January 2017 the Examiner informed the Applicant that the Commissioner was willing to give a 783 day extension, and gave him a month to relate to this. The method of calculation was not detailed.
The following day, on 9 January 2017, the Applicant requested details of this calculation and established telephone contact with the Examiner. The contents of the conversation were not documented but the Applicant’s representative explained the main points discussed. [why the Examiner wasn’t interviewed is not discussed]. In the discussion, it was noted that an error had occurred in calculating the extension period which did not conform with either the Applicant’s or the Examiner’s interpretation of the Law. The Examiner considered that the extension period should be from when regulatory approval was requested until registration of the product. Consequently, that day, 9 January 2017, the Examiner issued a letter correcting the 783 days to 479 days, commencing on 27 October 2014, when regulatory approval was sought, and ending on 18 February 2016 when registration occurred. Due to an error, the Applicant was not given a month to appeal this decision. Instead, it was published in the January 2017 patent journal. Thus on 31 January 2017, a notice that an extension would be given under Section 64(e)c of the Law, despite the Applicant appealing the decision on 22 January 2017. It is emphasized that Section 64(e)c of the Law allows the Commissioner to publish the announcement within 60 days, thereby allowing the Applicant to appeal the examiner’s decision prior to it publishing, which is his right under section 161 of the Law.
There is no doubt that the publication is an error that should be corrected under Section 170 of the Law. The error is twofold: Firstly, it should not have published before the Applicants appeal was heard. Secondly, the publication did not accord with Section 64(i)b of the Law, as clarified in this ruling.
Therefore, a new announcement will publish in the June 2017 journal to the effect that the patent term extension is 679 days. Under section 170(c) the public may oppose this correction.
Ruling by Deputy Commissioner Bracha regarding Patent Term Extension to IL 164987.
I found this ruling convincing and concur that it seems to fit with the intent of the Law and not just with its literal wording. However, the corrected calculation may be opposed both substantively based on alternative interpretations and also due to third parties relying on the shortened term. We await further developments.