Can a Knowingly Abandoned Patent Application be Reinstated?

BioMarin

IL 206845 to BioMarin Pharmaceuticals Inc. was refused under Section 21a of the Israel Patent Law 1967. The patent application was the national phase of a PCT application submitted on 6 January 2009. The national phase entry was submitted on 6 July 2010 and claims priority from US applications filed on 7 January 2008 and 22 April 2008.

On 30 January 2013, the Applicant was sent an Office Action to which the Applicant had four months to respond. No response was forthcoming. Following the extensions available under Circular 005/2011 then in force, on 5 March 2014 the Applicant was informed that the file would be closed if no response was submitted within 30 days. This letter went unanswered and the file was closed on 23 June 2014.

3 years

Three years and three months later, on 15 October 2015, the Applicant requested a retroactive extension to respond to the notice of abandonment.

The request was accompanied by an Affidavit that testified to the developments leading to the case becoming abandoned.

  1. In 2005, Merck Serono purchased all rights to the Kuvan medical product, and to the process for manufacturing the active ingredient claimed in the application.
  2. This transfer of rights was not recorded in the patent register and the Application was filed in the name of Biomarin.
  3. In 2012, Merck Serono decided that it was not interested in the patent issuing in Israel and told Biomarin not to respond to the Office Action.
  4. In 2015, Biomarin repurchased their rights to the invention and in 2016-2017 reviewed the usefulness of getting the patent to issue in Israel.
  5. Following the reconsideration, the present request for extension of time to respond was submitted in October 2017.

change-my-mindThe Applicants argued that their repurchasing of their rights and their reconsideration of the portfolio provides sufficient justification for reconsidering the refusal of the patent. Furthermore, unlike in the US and Europe, there is no legal requirement for abandonment so thus, even if the abandonment was following an intentional decision by Applicants or the predecessor thereof, this does not mean that, following a change of circumstances, this cannot be reconsidered and they are entitled to a further opportunity

mistake EinsteinThe Applicants presented their arguments at a hearing on 14 February 2018, during which they claimed that the Applicants can be considered as having made a mistake that they now wish to rectify. They also claimed that returning the application to examination will not cause damage to third parties. Finally, they argued that in Appeal 8127/15 Association of Israel Industrialists vs. Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp. et  al. (15 June 2016), certainly is no more important than other considerations.

Sections 21 and 21a of the Law set out the normative arrangement for these matters as follows:

21.  If the Applicant did not remove the grounds for the Application not being approved within the timetable set out in the regulations or did not correct the lacunae under Section 20, the Commissioner will refuse to allow the patent.
21a. If the Commissioner refuses the patent under Section 21, he can, at the request of the Applicant, reconsider the refusal provided that the request to do so was submitted within 12 months of the refusal.

reasonable

The period laid out in Section 21a of the law is extendable under Section 164 of the Law at the Commissioner’s discretion. The Commissioner’s discretion is summed up in the phrase “if he sees a reasonable basis for so-doing” which is found in Section 164a. The Commissioner’s considerations will change with circumstances, and as Judge Naor stated in Appeal 826/04 Commissioner of Patents vs. Recordati Ireland Ltd (26 June 2004):

The policy regarding different requests for extending deadlines that are brought before the Commissioner, will change with circumstances and with the nature of the proceedings for which an extension is requested.  

 Similarly, the Commissioner has the authority to make the extension dependent on “conditions that he considers to be correct” as stated in Section 164b of the Law.

In cases such as this, there are two main interests. Firstly, that of the Applicant who wishes to protect his invention and, secondly, that of the public which can benefit from inventions that are not patent-protected and are thus in the public domain. It is noted that this case is the national phase of a PCT application and the application and its status is published under section 16a of the Law.

limited

The Deputy Commissioner Ms Jacqueline Bracha considers that the period given in Section 21a, though long, is limited. This protects the public and brings matters to a close. The period given in the Law is a balance between the competing interests.

To extend the 12 month period after the file closes under Section 164 requires ‘reasonable grounds’, as defined in Opposition to IL 110548 Shmuel Sadovsky vs. Huglat Kimberly Marketing ltd, 12 August 2010. The relevant considerations for ‘reasonable grounds’ are the duration of the extension requested and the existence of a real cause for the delay.

Ms Bracha does not consider that the Applicants’ request can be considered reasonable with respect to the delay incurred or the justification to reopen the file. The request to reopen the file was received 39 months after the case was closed. This is 27 months after the usual deadline which is a long time.

As to the submission that the client changing their mind is grounds for opening an intentionally abandoned application, the Deputy Commissioner does not find this convincing. She finds support in Appeal 83/86 Sokol vs. Yismach, p.d. 40(1) 577 cited in the Sadovsky case, where it is stated that:

The discretionary authority to extent deadlines is intended to overcome mishaps and externalities that are beyond the litigant’s control.

One cannot consider a decision not to continue prosecuting as being an external cause, a mishap or an error. Ms Bracha notes that the circumstances described in the Affidavit show that the error we are dealing with is imported from Contract Law and is at best “a mistake in the equity of the deal” which is not grounds for cancelling a contract.

In a similar manner, it has been determined that not paying a renewal of a patent due to a determination that it is not worthwhile to do so is NOT considered as a reasonable ground for reinstatement, and that is where we are dealing with an actual right that the patentee was awarded and not with a pending application as in this case. See Request for Reinstatement of IL 177522 of “Yad Conena Ltd from 9 June 2014:

The circumstances of the case before me do not fulfill the above requirements. A decision was taken not to pay the Renewal fee. The patentee knew that the there was a need to pay the renewal fee as this was not the first time that he had needed to pay it. One can assume that after the case lapsed and was reinstated in 2011, the patentee made inquiries regarding the next renewal. From the Affidavit it transpires that the patentee made an informed decision NOT to pay the fee. In these circumstances one cannot conclude that the fee was not paid in reasonable circumstances that justify reinstatement.  The economic difficulties that the Applicant noted are not considered reasonable grounds for not paying the renewal, particularly where no evidence of the debit was submitted.

As a footnote, Ms Bracha relates to the claim that the request finds support in Appeal 8127/15 Association of Israel Industrialists vs. Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp. et  al. (15 June 2016), that in patent law, fidelity and consistency is no more important than other considerations. Ms Bracha considers that certainty is not all-seeing and that sometimes certainty will be sacrificed for other interests. In  re Association of Israel Industrialists, it was stated:

True, there is validity to the suspicion that certainty may be damaged when a court comes to interpret the Law (Aharon Barak Legal Interpretation, Interpreting Legislation Volume 2 583 (1993). Nevertheless, this is one consideration amongst many that can be used where there is nothing in the wording of the Law or elsewhere to directly contradict this. In this instance, it appears that the legislators did not put the question of certainly regarding when a patent lapses as the main consideration.

In other words, the consideration of certainty is an important consideration but where the wording of the Law or its purpose indicate that the legislators preferred some other consideration, the Court will interpret the Law accordingly.

Ms Bracha does not consider that in this instance the Law or the case-law expounding the Law indicate that the legislators preferred the interest of the Applicant over that of public certainty, She considers that to the extent that there is a legal tradition for interpreting Sections 21a and 164 of the Law, it is one that requires the Applicants to provide a real and reasonable cause for incurring a delay, and this is necessary since there is public reliance on the patent lapsing.

revival-2

The Applicants also requested to learn from what is stated in foreign legislation, that what is not stated in our Law is not a requirement. That is, that whereas other laws explicitly state “unintentional” this implies that there is no such requirement in Israel Law. Whilst it is true that Section 21 does not require abandonment to be unintentional, it does provide a normative timeframe for reinstatement, whereas the US and European law do not.  Any deviation from this period is considered in the mirror of Section 164 which is interpreted in light of the nature of the deadline to be extended and the type of proceeding before the Commissioner. This was detailed above, and will not be repeated. It is sufficient to note that one cannot rely on the inclusion or omission of a word in the Israel Law as the basis for its interpretation whilst ignoring the case-law.

It seems that the circumstances are such that the case was abandoned intentionally and can only be rectified if this was not legal. The request is refused.

IL 206845 to Biomarin: refusal to reinstate application, Deputy Commissioner Ms  Jacqueline Bracha, 17 April 2018.     

COMMENT

In extraordinary circumstances, long-dead applications have been reinstated. See for example IL 194015 to Natapov, Perstnev, Perstnev and Vilacer titled “the Insulating Material”. Here the patent had lapsed three years earlier, but had not published. The record is probably Israel Patent Number 139892 “INNER WORKINGS FOR A WATER TREATMENT UNIT” to Yigal Tsabri  which was revived seven years after it lapsed.

I am frankly surprised by the audacity of the Applicants’ representative for trying to  argue that this knowingly abandoned patent application could be revived more than 12 months after going abandoned and am pleased that the Deputy Commissioner came to the decision that it could not be.

One Response to Can a Knowingly Abandoned Patent Application be Reinstated?

  1. If it’s a binding contract . Then no.

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