Can Non-Israelis be Subpoenaed to testify in Opposition Proceedings?

June 10, 2018

novartis

Israel Patent Application No. 176831 to Novartis is titled “COMPRESSED PHARMACEUTICAL TABLETS OR DIRECT COMPRESSION PHARMACEUTICAL TABLETS COMPRISING DPP-IV INHIBITOR CONTAINING PARTICLES AND PROCESSES FOR THEIR PREPARATION”. It is the national phase entry of PCT/EP2005/000400.

Unipharm

On allowance, Unipharm filed an Opposition to the patent application being granted.  Within the Opposition proceeding, Unipharm, who for this case, have dispensed with the services of Adv. Adi Levit, their legal counsel and have been handling the Opposition unaided by attorneys, have requested that the Israel Patent Office subpoena  John Hutchinson and Mr Kowalski, workers at Novartis to give testimony.

This request follows an earlier request to reveal documentation regarding testing that was appended to the Expert Witness testimony of Professor Davies, Novartis’ expert witness, which was ordered in an earlier interim ruling of 3 January 2018.

Discovery

In response to the discovery request, Novartis submitted an Affidavit with various appended papers. In light of this, Unipharm now alleges that the Affidavit implies that Novartis has not revealed all documents it should have. Unipharm further indicates that the explanation proffered by Hutchinson, who is signed on the Affidavit, “appears to be odd”. Therefore, Unipharm wish to Subpoena him to cross-examine him on this.

lab bookUnipharm further claims that a document titled “Certificate of Authenticity” was included with respect to the laboratory notebook, parts of which were included in the appendices attached to the affidavit. According to Unipharm, Mr Kowalski, who was one of the named inventors, is signed on this document. Consequently, Unipharm requested to cross-examine him as well.

Novartis requests that Unipharm’s request be rejected. They claim that the Commissioner does not have the authority to subpoena witnesses not within the judicial territory of the State of Israel, who are not direct parties in a proceeding. Novartis also notes that Mr Hutchinson’s signature on the Affidavit accompanying the discovery documents was done in the framework of his employment as a patent attorney in the Legal Department of Novartis. Novartis claims that ALL information regarding the management of the proceeding is subject to legal confidentiality and may also be considered as being a trade-secret.

As to Mr Kowalski, he never signed an Affidavit of Evidence in the process and is not a party to it. Similarly Novartis claims that Unipharm has not stated why they need to cross-examine that inventor who was one of three named inventors.

Discussion

The witnesses that the Opposer wished to interrogate are beyond the territorial jurisdiction of Israel and are not parties in the case. Thus the Applicant is correct that Section 163b of the Patent Law 1967 that Unipharm referred to is not a legal basis for their being subpoenaed. The references that Unipharm related to in their request, dealt with witnesses that gave Affidavits or expert witness testimony, and thus could be subpoenaed for cross-examination purposes.

A party that wishes to subpoena a citizen or foreign resident to testify must do so under the International Inter-State Legal Assistance Law 1998. See Appeal 3810/06 Dori and Zacovsky Building and Investments Ltd vs. Shamai Goldstein, paragraph 17, 24 September 2007.

Section 47 of the Legal Assistance Law states:

The Authority is allowed to request from another country, that testimony be collected, including that physical evidence be transferred for display in Israel, if the court allows that the evidence is required to hold the trial in Israel; regarding this law, and where the case is pending, the term court refers to the tribunal that is hearing the case.

From the wording of this Section, it transpires that the court will open a proceeding to summon foreign witnesses to a hearing only if it is convinced that their testimony is necessary to conduct the proceeding. In this instance, the Commissioner considers that there is significant doubt as to whether the presence of the witnesses for cross-examination purposes is really required.

Unipharm has requested to cross-examination Mr Kowalski regarding an Affidavit for discovery that he is signed on. The purpose of the discovery process is to enable the main proceeding to be handled efficiently; legal proceedings with face-up cards where each party knows what documents the other parties hold to prevent surprises at the hearing. By this means, unexpected delays are prevented, allowing the court to reveal the truth. Appeal 4235/05 Bank Mizrachi United vs. Ronit Peletz, 14 August 2015.

Opposite the principle of discovery, there are other interests such as efficiency of the court proceeding, defense of the legitimate interests of the party revealing documents, and preventing damage to the interests of third parties – See Appeal 2534/02 Yehuda Shimshon vs. Bank HaPoalim ltd. p.d. 56(5) 193. So the case-law has ruled more than once that it will not allow cross-examination of affidavits of this kind, if they are properly presented (see Appeal 2376/13 Rami Levy Shikma Marketing Ltd vs. Moshe Dagan 8 July 2014, and Zusman Civil Procedures 7th Edition, page 436.

This general rule has two exceptions: The first is that where reading of the Affidavit alone or with reference to its citations, that the Affidavit is defective, the court can order the party revealing documents to file a further Affidavit. Second, where the issue of confidentiality is used, the court can examine the document and decide if this claim is reasonable (see for example, Appeal 240/73 Baruch Vilker vs. Dov Tishler, 205, 2 December 1971 and Appeal 6823/05 Abraham Roimi vs. Bank Leumi of Israel, 12 January 2016.

In this instance, Unipharm did not append an Affidavit, detail or justify why they considered that the current case is one of these exceptions. Thus the Commissioner cannot rule that this is the case, and so the request is rejected.

As to the evidence of Mr Kowalski, Unipharm did not claim that there was any connection between the documents appended to the Affidavit of the Discovery and to the experiments that were appended to Novartis’ evidence, which was the basis of the original discovery request. Note, Mr Kowalski’s signature is only on the Certificate of Authenticity taken from the lab-book that was appended to some pages therefrom that were submitted in the discovery documents. In these circumstances, it is not clear what value Mr Kowalski’s testimony has, even were he to be subpoenaed.

In light of this, the Commissioner does not consider that the requirements of Section 47 of the Law of Legal Assistance are fulfilled with regard to Mr Hutchinson or Mr Kowalski.

The Request is refused. Unipharm will cover Novartis’ costs and their legal expenses to the tune of 2000 Shekels + VAT. These costs will be paid within 30 days.

Interim Ruling in Opposition to IL 175831 Ofer Alon, 30 April 2018.

Comment

It is possible that Mr Tomer has indeed bitten off more than he can chew by handling legal issues procedural issues such as requesting subpoenaing witnesses without legal counsel. However, the costs ruled against him are trivial when considering the issue in question. The Unipharm’s Expert Witness cannot testify to things that he does not know such as what else was in the lab-book, and in Opposition proceedings there is no assumption of validity of the patent. Thus it would be premature to write this request off as a strategic or even a tactical error.


Bayer – Part II – Are Patents for Bio-Similars Elligible for Patent Term Extensions???

June 5, 2018

This is the second part of a ruling concerning Patent Term Extensions (PTEs) for Kovaltry. The first part related to when the ninety day period from registration commences and is discussed here.

This second part of the ruling is a precedential decision that rules whether a patent for a bio-pharmaceutical material such as a protein can be can be considered as being a basic patent if there is a previously registered bio-similar molecule; it being appreciated that the amino acid sequence may be the same, but the spatial structure, activity and efficacy may still be different. In view of its legal and financial significance, the decision is fully translated below. We apologize for any incorrect technology. 

After the request for a patent term extension for Kovaltry was received from Bayer, the Patent Office issued an Office Action as follows:

Paragraph 6 of the Affidavit appended to the letter of 22 August 2017 notes that there is no other formulation that includes Recombination Human Coagulation Factor VIII, fabricated by the defined cell culture and the defined conditions under which KOVATLRY is manufactured. It is possible that the Blood Coagulation factor claimed in the Application is different from the Blood Coagulation Factors that have been registered, but the Active Ingredient of the Recombination Human Coagulation Factor VIII formulation is registered in the registry of pharmaceutical formulations in various formulations mentioned hereinabove.

The other medical formulations mentioned as including Factor VIII were Novoeight, Octanate 1000, Koate and Kogenate.

Kovaltry

On 11 December 2017, the Applicant responded to the Office Action and claimed that the active ingredient, the Recombinant Human Coagulation Factor VIII, is a new material derived from a new genetic engineering process that is protected in the present application, and that Kovaltry is the first formulation that allows its medical usage in Israel, as required for a patent term extension in Section 64D(3) of the Law.

The Applicant explained that Factor VIII is intended for treating Hemophilia A which is characterized by a problem with blood clotting due to a fault in or a lack of Factor VIII. In the new process covered by the Application, the heat shock protein 70 (HSP70) is introduced into the gene of the host cell and additional actions are taken to produce the active ingredient, which creates a new protein Factor VIII, which has a different structure from other proteins that relate to a lack of endogens in the Factor VIII coagulant. The structure of the protein, as applied for in the Application is as follows:

Bayer

The Applicant further explained that the folding structure of the protein is different due to the manufacturing route, and it attracts a lot of sugar groups (glycans), which allow the protein to automatically fold and provides a pharmokinetic advantage to the protein when compared to other formulations. In this regard, the Applicant notes that most properties, such as the glycan group appended, which have been glycosylated, are relevant to the half-life of the protein in the blood.

The Applicant claims that the registration file of the Kovaltry formulation indicates that the Ministry of Health considered the formulation to have a new active ingredient, and so it had to undergo the specific regulatory requirements of the Ministry of Health. The Applicant relies on the Procedure of the Ministry of Health for registering products of this type; Changes and Innovation in Medical Formulations from 1 February 2015, which differentiates between six different categories for registration.

According to the Applicant, when the Israel Ministry of Health relates to the Recombination Human Coagulation Factor VIII as being a new active ingredient as far as registration in the drug register is concerned, one has to apply a similar rationale when considering the drug for a patent term extension in order to fulfill the purpose of the legislation which is the underlining logic of the patent term extension, which is to compensate the patentee for the period when he cannot market the formulation containing the patented product due to regulatory requirements. The Applicant argues that one should differentiate between medical formulations that have active chemical ingredients that are small molecules, and biological formulations that are differentiated by proteins manufactured in different ways. They argue that the different proteins are typically different from each other in both their structure and their physical properties.

From the claims it transpires that the difference results from the way that the protein is manufactured. The applicant explained and supported their explanation with various appendices, the manufacture of a biological pharmaceutical formulation that includes proteins is very difficult due to the size of the protein, the way it folds, the general structure, changes in translating the chain of amino acids to create the protein, the cell culture used to manufacture the proteins, and so on. All changes lead to changes in the protein itself, in its. glycosylation and medical effect.

Due to these differences, the Applicant alleges that Health Ministries around the world have created different regulatory procedures for biological pharmaceutical formulations. They claim that even though there may be several medical formulations for addressing a lack of a particular enogen, such as Factor VIII, due to the issues raised above, they will be different from each other in practice. Furthermore, their active elements which cause blood clotting will be different and have different international classification.

In their response, the Applicant further explained that there are other formulations that treat Hemophilia A, which are fabricated in different ways such as by separating active ingredients from human plasma, formulations obtained by genetic engineering of part or a full gene, formulations that include healed proteins and formulations that include Factor VIII with additional proteins.  The Applicant claims that these formulations are completely different from Kovaltry, despite their purpose being to overcome the endogenic lack of the blood clotting Factor VIII as described above.

The Applicant focused on the differences between the active ingredients of the medical formulations cited by the Examiner and the active ingredient of Kovaltry. As to Kogenate, the Applicant claimed that its active ingredient was different to Factor VIII, even though the sequence of amino acids was the same, since the proteins of the structure are different at the gene level and the protein level. The Applicant appended journal articles that related to the differences between the formulations as an example of improved pharmakinetics.

In light of the above, the Applicant considers that one cannot apply Section 64D(3) of the Law in the same way for biopharmaceuticals when comparing active ingredients with prior art as is done for chemical pharmaceuticals.

In response to these claims, the Deputy Chief Examiner responded in a letter of 31 December 2017, that obtaining the strict regulatory approval required for pharmaceuticals is no indication that a patent term extension is also appropriate. To support this differentiation, the Deputy Chief Examiner referred to 223/09 H. Lundbeck A/S vs. Unipharm ltd et al (22 May 2009).

The letter also notes that the journal papers appended to the response explain that the process for obtaining Factor VIII in the patent in question creates a new protein with a different structure, with glycosylation and different pharmakinetic properties which affect the half-life of the protein in the blood, but do not influence the formulation, and the protein that is the active ingredient of Kovaltry is Factor VIII which exists in Kogenate and other pharmaceutical preparations.

Furthermore, the Deputy Chief Examiner considered that the improved glycosylation or the addition of the HPS70 may affect the folding and could be a new process, but the registration of a medical preparation is given for a formulation and not for the process of manufacture, and differences in the Factor VIII are simply a bi-product of the processing route.

The Deputy Chief Examiner added that though the process of manufacturing the proteins in Kovaltry and Kogenate are different with a difference that expresses itself in yield, better cells and other repeatability differences, the sequence of amino acids is the same, despite the amount of glycans that underwent glycosylation on the proteins So compared to preparations that were registered earlier than Kovaltry, the Deputy Chief Examiner rejected the Applicant’s claims with respect to each of the formulations.

On 7 February 2018, the Applicant submitted a request for a hearing regarding the rejection, and submitted a further statement of claims on 20 February 2018. O 25 February 2018 an ex-partes hearing was held before the Commissioner during which the Applicant reiterated their claims and added the following claims:

Factor VIII is a complex protein and changes in the process result in significant changes to the structure thereof and to the medical affect thereof. Consequently, when comparing twoproteins to ascertain whether or not they are the same material, one has to consider the structure and not merely the sequence of amino acids which is the first stage of characterization, but also the three dimensional form and the intracellular activity.

After the hearing, the Applicant submitted a summary on 1 March 2018 that proposed an appropriate test for considering the novelty of biopharmaceuticals. The proposed test has three levels. Firstly one should consider if the material is a biological medicine. Then one should consider if the protein has a new structure, and finally various tests for determining whether a protein is new or not, such as whether it is a specific protein, whether the regulatory approval was Read the rest of this entry »


When does the ninety day period for requesting a patent term extension commence?

May 29, 2018

Extension for IL 124123 to Bayer. When does the ninety day period for requesting a patent term extension commence?

In this ruling, the Commissioner accepts that the 90 day period for requesting a patent term extension should be calculated from the date at which the Ministry of Health informs the Applicant of the issuance of the decision to grant a patent term extension, and NOT from the date on the certificate. We now wait for someone to request that all sorts of cases be reopened, and extension fees refunded.

There is a second part to this ruling, in which the Commissioner rules on whether this is indeed the first registration of the drug. For blogging purposes, I am relating to the issues separately.

Kovaltry

The Application for the Extension for IL 124123 to Bayer was filed on 7 August 2016 and relates to the KOVALTRY formulation in the medical products registry from 8 May 2016, and which contains Recombinant Human Coagulation Factor VIII (no relation).

The Deputy Chief Examiner sent an Office Action on 13 September 2017 in which she raised the following objections:

  • The Application does not fulfill Section 64xv(a) of the Patent Law 1967 since it was received 9 days after the formulation was registered in the pharmaceutical registry.
  • The Application does not fulfill section 64d(3) of the Patent Law 1967, since it is not the first registration of Recombinant Human Coagulation Factor VIII in the pharmaceutical register.

The Applicant was also required to provide additional details regarding extension orders in the US and in recognized European countries.

On 11 December 2017, the Applicant responded to the Office Action. Following the Request for Patent term extension being rejected on 3 December 2017, the Applicant challenged the grounds for rejection. In their response, they submitted a detailed list of allegations on 7 February 2018 and a summary on 20 February 2018. The Applicant also attended a hearing on 25 February 2018. After the hearing on 1 March 2018 the Applicant submitted a completion of their case.

Bayer raised two main claims. The first was the way of calculating the timing of the request for the extension conducted by the Deputy Senior Examiner in accordance with Section 64xv(a) of the Law. The second related to the previous registration of bioactive ingredients for medical purposes in accordance with Section 64iv(3) of the Law.

Timeline for Submitting the Request for Patent Term Extension

When the Application was submitted on 7 August 2017, the Application wrote that “This Application based on the Kovaltry formulation that was registered on 8 May 2016, and so the Application is submitted within 90 days of registration.”

Ms Assem Mehta Deputy President, Head of the Department of Patents and Licenses, and Assistant to the Secretary, affirmed in an Affidavit supporting the request for patent term extension, dated 22 August 2016, noted in Section 4 of the Affidavit, that the medical device was registered on 8 May 2017.

However, from the Office Action, the Registration Date that appears on the Certificate of Registration is indeed 8 May 2017, but the request for the Patent Term Extension was only filed on 7 August 2017 which is 91 days from the registration date. Based on this data, the Deputy Chief Examiner ruled that the request does not conform to Section 64xv(a) of the Law which requires that:

Section 64xv(a)A request for a patent term extension should be submitted in the appropriate manner, after paying the fee, and not more than 90 days from registration in the Pharmaceutical Registry.

In the response to the Office Action from 11 December 2017, the Applicant claimed that although 8 May 2017 is the date at which the registration for marketing Kovaltry appears in the register, the Authorization only issued on 10 May 2017, and this was the date at which the Manager of the Register for Pharmaceutical Formulations informed the Patentees of the Approval. The Applicant appended a further Affidavit dated 14 January 2017, from Mr Gal Friedman, the Head of Regulation of Bayer Israel, which markets the Applicant’s products in Israel. In the Affidavit, Gal Friedman asserted that regulatory approval was only received on 10 May 2017. An email notification from the Head of Registration of Pharmaceutical Formulations, Dr Einbinder was appended. The email address was given as the formal electronic mailing address of Bayer Israel.

The Applicant claims that from their attempts to clarify the matter, that in the past, the date on the certificate was the only date available for calculating the 91 day period. However, nowadays, one can use the date of informing the Applicant as the starting period of the 90 days.

The Applicant claims that neither the Patent Law nor the Pharmacists Ordinance 1981 define the registration date that appears on the registration certificate. They thus allege that there is no basis to explaining that the 90 day period stated with this date is the correct date for calculating the 90 day period for requesting a patent term extension from a the Deputy Commissioner ruled, rather than the date at which the Applicant was informed (i.e. 10 May 2017).

The Applicant went on to claim that time periods for calculating things that depend on the Authority are generally to be calculated from when the citizen is made aware of the action of the Authority or when the notice is sent.

The Applicant wishes to draw a parallel to the C-471/14 Seattle Genetics from 6 October 2015, where it was ruled that the period for giving marketing approval under the European regulations, is from the day that the Applicant is informed, i.e. the date of notification. The Applicant claims that the basis for this determination is that the marketing approval does NOT enter into effect from the day that the decision is taken, but rather from the date that the Applicant is informed of the decision. Consequently, certificates of registration have two dates and the Applicant believes that one should prefer the later of the two, which fulfills the intention of the legislation, which is to provide a sufficient window for Applicants who have a basic patent, to request a patent term extension – something that they cannot do before knowing that a marketing approval has issued.

The Applicant alleges that this position is supported by the District Court ruling in 32321-10-16 Bristol Myers Squibb Holdings Ireland vs. Commissioner of Patents and Trademarks 26 December 2017, where Section 64x(2) of the Law was interpreted to mean that the period of marketing approval commences with the informing of the decision to the Applicant and not with the date that the Approval was made. The Applicant considers that this should apply to Section 64xv(a) of the Law as well.

The Applicant also considers that the explanation of the Law made by the Deputy Chief Examiner could result in many cases where the patent term extension period was determined by the date appearing on the certificate and the number of days would need to be recalculated.

DISCUSSION AND RULING

The issue in question is the correct explanation of the term “Day of Registration of the Medical Formulation” as mentioned in Section 64xv(a) of the Law.

In legislating that the Applicant should submit their request for a patent term extension within 90 days from registration in the Pharmacist’s Register, the legislators attempted to achieve two purposes:

  1. To give the Applicant sufficient time to prepare their application
  2. To allow the public to know with certainty whether a patent term extension was being sought for a particular product, thereby providing market certainty.

Section 64xv(a) has been amended. In the earlier version under the third amendment to the Law, the period for applying for a patent term extension was 60 days from registration of the formulation under the Pharmacist Regulations (formulations) 1986.

In the seventh amendment from 2006, 3 January 2006, Book of Laws 2048, page 195-197, the Section was amended to extend this period to 90 days. The Pharmacist’s Regulations were similarly amended and now state “from the day of recordal under the Pharmacist’s Ordinance. In the 11th amendment the Authority of the Commissioner to extend the period was taken away, so the period is non-extendible (Amendment 11, 2014, Law book 2430, 27 January 2014, pages 274, 278.

From the Applicant’s claims it transpires that there are four periods that could be considered the period of registration from which the 90 days are calculated:

  1. That given as the date of registration
  2. The day that the approval is printed on the certificate
  3. The date when the Pharmaceutical Division informs the owners of the registration – the sending date. and
  4. The date of knowledge – the day on which the owners of the registration receive notification of the registration.

The date of registration is that appearing on the certificate from which the ninety day period has traditionally been calculated when calculating the deadline for requesting a patent term extension (considering the certificate as it stands today).

The date of printing is presumably the date when the Ministry of Health produces the certificate. This is the date on page 3 of the Kovaltry certificate which states printed on 10 May 2017.

The claims and evidence before me do not support the contention that the date of printing of the certificate is necessarily the date on which the Ministry of Health informed the Applicant that their request for registration was successful. Indeed, one can assume that the date of printing will actually change each time that the same document is sent to the printer and so the same certificate could exist with different printing dates. Consequently, the Commissioner does not think that this date can be relied upon as the date for registration with regard to the correct explanation of Section 64xv(a) of the Law.

As to the period of sending or the period of becoming aware, the Commissioner accepts the Applicant’s allegation that calculating the deadline from the Official Date is problematic where the Applicant only becomes aware of the date retroactively, since it is difficult to require someone to take an action within a time period from an event occurring that he does not know about.

The issuance of a marketing authorization is an administrative action as defined in Section 3 of the Law of Interpretation:

An administrative action is an order or an appointment, notice, license, approval and the like, that is given in writing under Law and is not a legislative action.

In his book Administrative Authority, Y Zamir states that (Zamir, Administrative Authority Vol. 2 Second Edition, 201 on page 1320):

Common sense tells us that there are things where not being informed of an administrative decision that adversely affects a person’s rights, should not be in effect at all, or in certain circumstances, if the person was not informed of the decision. For example, let’s consider that an Administrative Authority cancels the work permit of a person but does not inform him of this, is it conceivable that the person will be tried under criminal law for running a business without a license? If an Authority applies a tax and does not tell him, can he be held liable for not paying that tax? Where a Law states that a person is allowed to Appeal or to critique an administrative ruling in some other way within a specific period from that decision issuing, and the person is not informed, should he be prohibited from criticizing the ruling? In summary, it appears that the present situation requires a legislative solution or case-law, that relates to publication of civil rulings. The underlining is by Commissioner.

Logic obliges that giving notification to someone regarding an administrative action relating to him cannot be applied without the person being aware of the administrative action. This is also stated in regulation 4 of the Patent Regulations 1968:

The calculation of the time period for doing an action the Law or regulations require or allow, following actions of the Commissioner or subsequent thereto, should enter into effect from the date when the requirement is given to the postal service and addressed to the client or agent-of-record at the official address, or sent by electronic mail, as per Regulation 16(b). This period starts with the sending of the electronic mail, unless it is established to the Commissioner’s satisfaction, that the message was not delivered.

True, in this instance, we are NOT talking about an action that the Patentee is required to take following an action of the Commissioner of Patents, but due to the action of a different Authority, the Ministry of Health, however the underlying logic is appropriate. It is noted that where the Pharmacists’ Regulations themselves give a time period for an action, the time period is from when the action of the Authority is made known to the person concerned, see, for example, Regulation 9(3) of the Pharmaceutical Ordinance:

 (b) If the director considers that the registration of the formulation in the register should not be renewed, he should inform the registered owner before the registration lapses, the notification should be by registered mail to the official address of the registered owner.  

(b1) If the manager informs that he does not intend renewing the registration, he should extend the registration by no more than six months.

(c) The owner of the registration is allowed to appeal the decision not to renew the registration within six months from receipt of the notification under Regulation (b).

So the patent regulations specifically state that where someone has to respond to an action of the Authority, the period for responding will be calculated from the day of sending or from the day of receipt of the notification if it is proven that the notification did not reach its destination. The pharmaceutical regulations state that the period is calculated from notification.

In the ruling of re Bristol, Judge Magen Altovia related to the “submission approach”.

 It is noted that the serving of papers approach sits well with the administrative law that stresses that the period of serving of papers is more important than the reaching of the administrative decision by the deciding party with respect to setting into practice that allowed.

As Judge Magen Altovia stated in re Bristol, the purpose of the civil law procedures is to fulfill real rights. See Appeal 6708/00 Aharon vs. Aharon p.d. 54(4) 702:

At the end of the day, the civil procedures are there to serve substantive rights, and they are there for a purpose. The wider substantive approach, of which good faith is the wellspring, cannot be accompanied by overly strict civil procedures. The legal culture is not only judged by protected rights, but also sometimes by the ways of approaching situations and the status of those being judged.

Consequently, Commissioner Ofir Alon considers that the 90 day period for requesting a patent term extension be calculated in a similar fashion to other deadlines in the Patent Law, i.e. in accordance with Regulation 4 of the regulations, that the date is to be calculated from when the notification is sent to the applicant / patentee, unless the Applicant can prove that the notice was never received, and in such cases, the period is to be calculated from when the consumer learned about the decision.

The Commissioner does not consider that calculating the period from the day that the Notice was given to the Applicant undermines the second purpose of the legislators; the need for certainty. This interest is not damaged if the date is calculated from the day of sending, since this is usually close to the day that the decision was taken by the Ministry of Health. It should be noted that Section 64 of the Patent Law has to be very carefully interpreted, to reflect the balances intended by the legislators.

In this instance, in the request for registration and in the affidavit, the Applicant noted the date of registration as 8 May 2018, even though Mr Friedman did not note that the notification was first sent to the Applicant on 10 May 2017, which the Commissioner is willing to assume was his intention in light of the Applicant’s claim, and noting the date of the printing appears on the certificate. In light of all of the above, the Commissioner rules that the response was timely filed under Section 64xv(a) of the Law.

COMMENT

This ruling seems to indicate that the Current Commissioner is less formulistic than his predecessors. I was rather taken aback by this ruling since I think that the 90 day period is ample to cover regular postage delays and his deadline should be no different from all the others that are calculated from the date on the certificate.

The Patent Office has very many deadlines triggered by an action they take, including the deadline for responding to Office Actions (typically 3 or 4 months, and extendible), the final deadline for responding to all Office Actions for registering a design (one year from the date of the first office action), the deadline for paying the first renewal (three months from issuance of the patent certificate), the deadline for filing oppositions, the deadline for filing abroad under Paris, etc. ALL of these calculate the deadline from the official date, despite the fact that, in practice, the Applicant will only be aware of the date once he/she receives notification which may be some time later.

The 90 day period is sufficient to cover delays of days in the authority informing the Applicant and the time for the Applicant to inform his client. If it can be shown that there were extraordinary delays involved, then there is due cause to argue that the delays were unavoidable and the Commissioner could reasonably give a discretionary extension. If the Law limits the grounds for discretionary extensions, it does so for good reason. In light of this ruling, ALL the deadlines triggered by Patent Office actions are now suspect.

There is no need for this. The 90 day period is sufficient to cover minor delays and, in this instance, the delay was three days. Sixty days used to be considered enough for filing a request. This period has been extended to ninety days. Ninety days is ample.

The 90 day period should not be extendible. The Law requires unavoidable delays and there was nothing unavoidable in this instance. However, although I think the ruling was horrible, there is a precedent for extending the 90 day period based on errors by agent of record being unavoidable. In XXXX, Reinhold Cohn missed the date due to docketing errors. If Pearl Cohen had claimed that they made a docketing error and calculated the date from receipt of notification, it is difficult to see how the present Commissioner could avoid giving the extension given to Reinhold Cohn. Of course, to do this requires knowledge of the previous decision which requires reading the decisions or following this blog.

Even without this, if the Commissioner simply ruled that the delay was unavoidable, he could simply have granted an extension based on payment of an extension fee. Instead, he has ruled that all deadlines are to be calculated from date of sending, or if not received, from date of notification. We predict that this will open a hornets’ nest.

Actually, there is a second issue here, which is whether this was the first publication. On that ground, discussed in the next blog posting, the extension was rejected. The Commissioner could, therefore, have ruled on that case and left the present issue open.


Can a Knowingly Abandoned Patent Application be Reinstated?

May 22, 2018

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.


Abandoned Patent Opposition Converted into Ex-Partes Procedure

April 20, 2018

Israel Patent Application No. 220476 to Mapi Pharma titled “Long Acting Depot System Comprising a Pharmaceutical Acceptable Salt of Glatiramer” was allowed and published for opposition purposes. Teva filed an opposition under Section 34 of the Law.

glatiramer

The application relates to a dosing regime of Glatiramer and salts thereof. The drug is an immunomodulator medication used to treat multiple sclerosis.

The application is a national stage of a PCT filed on 19 August 2010 which claims priority from an American patent application of 4 January 2010.

The patent was examined and published for opposition purposes on 31 March 2016. On 28 June 2016, Teva filed an opposition. After the parties submitted their statements of case, Teva withdrew their opposition for commercial reasons.

Under Section 34 of the Patent Law 1967, the Commissioner has to decide whether the suspended opposition provides a sufficient basis for the patent to be granted.

In their Statement of Case Teva raised various issues regarding the patentability of the claimed invention. Since no evidence was submitted, the Deputy Commissioner concentrated on the allegation that the publication of WO2005/041933 from 12 May 2005 anticipates the invention and negates novelty.

Claim 1 recites:

“A long acting parenteral pharmaceutical composition comprising a therapeutically effective amount of a pharmaceutically acceptable salt of glatiramer, the composition being in a sustained release depot form which releases a therapeutically effective amount of the pharmaceutically acceptable salt of glatiramer over a period of about one week to about 6 months.”

Paragraph 20 of the Statement of Case which from paragraph 58 of their counter statement, it appears the patentee accepts, construes claim 1 as follows:

  1. A long acting pharmaceutical composition
  2. For parenteral dosing
  3. comprising a therapeutically effective amount of a pharmaceutically acceptable salt of glatiramer,
  4. the composition being in a sustained release depot form
  5. which releases a therapeutically effective amount of the pharmaceutically acceptable salt of glatiramer over a period of about one week to about 6 months.

Read the rest of this entry »


A cost ruling and a tax question

April 17, 2018

This cost ruling highlights a tax issue where it seems to be unclear whether charges for legal work performed on behalf of a foreign entity concerning an issued patent (or trademark) in Israel incur VAT. It also highlights the problems that can occur where firms split and one professional leaves taking clients and on-going issues with him. What is required is professionalism and good between the management of the original firm and the new representatives to deal with costs incurred by the original constellation. Unfortunately, sometimes this good will is lacking.

alkermesAlkermes Pharma Ireland LTD has an exclusive license from Novartis to manufacture a drug in accordance with IL 142896 and its divisional patent no. IL 179379 entitled “Multiparticulate Modified Release Composition”. The active ingredient is Methylphenidate and is commonly known as Retalin. It is used for the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy.

MediceMedice Arneimittel GmbH filed a request to cancel the relevant patents and the claim scope was narrowed in a preliminary action by Alkermes, but the cancellation actions were unsuccessful. Now Alkerermes has requested costs of $1,029,561.95 which comes to 3,626,118.18 Shekels costs.

History and Timeline

IL 179379 is a Divisional Application of IL 142896. The allowed patents published for opposition purposes on 8 March 2007 and 31 March 2011 respectively. Since no oppositions were filed, they issued on 9 June 2007 and on 1 July 2011. On 6 August 2012, an exclusive license for manufacturing was issued in the name of Alkermes.

On 14 November 2012, Medice Arneimittel GmbH applied to cancel the patent. The application was supported by a technical opinion provided by Professor Golomb.

On 7th February 2014, before a counter-claim and evidence were submitted, the patentee requested to amend the specification under Sections 65 and 66 of the Israel Patent Law 1967 which allows the scope of a challenged patent to be restricted by the patentee within the scope of the monopoly originally allowed.

On 6 March 2013, the Medice Arneimittel responded and on 14 March 2013 Notartis answered and on 17 March 2013 Medice Arneimittel GmbH requested permission to respond to the answer. On 5 May 2013, then Commissioner Kling scheduled a date for a hearing to discuss the amendment. In the hearing which was held on 4 June 2013, the Commissioner ruled that he case be conducted under Section 102(vi) as if the amendment was accepted, and after the cancellation proceedings be ruled, on the amendment would publish for opposition purposes.

In light of this ruling, Medice Arneimittel submitted an amended cancellation proceeding together with a further affidavit from Professor Golomb.

On 4 March 2014, Novartis/ Alkerermes submitted their counter claims submitted with an expert opinion from Professor Mark A Stein and Professor Joseph Cost.

On 2 June 2014, Medice Arneimittel submitted their counter-evidence including a further affidavit from Professor Golomb together with a request to submit a further three prior art publications. On 18 June 2014, the Commissioner allowed this extra prior art to be submitted, and allowed Novartis/Alkerermes to relate Read the rest of this entry »


Reinstatement of Lapsed Patents in Israel

March 22, 2018

not a rubber stamp

It can and does happen that annuities are inadvertently not paid and patents go abandoned.

If the patentee and/or his representative act promptly on learning that a patent lapsed, and sign affidavits to explain how the deadline was missed, reinstatement is generally possible. The Adjudicator, typically the Deputy Commissioner, will usually allow reinstatement and her decision publishes for opposition purposes. If, in the meantime, a third-party has made preparations to exploit the apparently abandoned patent, they are generally entitled to a non-transferrable license to continue to exploit. It is important to realize however, that reinstatement is NOT automatic.

This past month there were six rulings concerning abandoned patents. In five cases, in two of which the patentee was represented and in three they were not, the Deputy Commissioner ruled that the conditions of Section 56 were met and ruled that, subject to no oppositions being submitted, the patents could be reinstated.

In the sixth case, IL 177416 to Arieh Sansolo titled “Rapid Detonating Cord Coil Deployment Apparatus” went abandoned due to failure to pay the third renewal for years 10-14 after filing. The last day for paying this renewal was 10 August 2016, and six months later, on expiry of the grace period, the patent was abandoned as per Section 57 of the Law.  The fact that the patent was abandoned was published in the March 2017 journal.

From the request for reinstatement and the accompanying affidavit, it seems that the reason why the case was not renewed was due to the patentee not being reminded by the agent-of-record (Dekel Patents).

In her ruling of 7 February 2018, Ms Bracha wrote:

It is not clear from the Affidavit why the agent-of-record did not inform the patentee, nor is it clear what steps were taken by the agent-of-record to ensure that the renewal fee be paid. It is also not clear how and when the patentee and the agent-of-record became aware that the patent had lapsed

Ms Bracha gave the patentee a further opportunity to add the missing data within 7 days.

 

up a palm tree

The patentee and legal representative did file an additional submission which attempted to include testimony from both patentee and agent -of-record wherein the patentee swore to tell the truth, but the agent -of-record merely listed the circumstances without swearing to tell the truth.  Nevertheless, without relating to the formal deficiencies, Ms Bracha considered the statement. The agent -of-record noted that he assisted the patentee by receiving reminders and forwarding them to the patentee. In this instance, he did not receive a reminder and thus did not forward it to the client. The agent -of-record noted that he does not charge for this service.

In a string of decisions the Israel Patent Office has ruled that not receiving a reminder from the Patent Office is not sufficient justification to not pay the renewal. See for example, IL 185526 Khalid Akad et al. 24 October 2012. The Applicant or his representative are required to take positive steps to ensure that renewals are timely paid, such as to run a computerized reminder system or to use a renewals company.

In this instance the patentee and the agent -of-record did not have such a system but simply relied on the Patent Office. This is insufficient to fulfill the reasonable means requirement of Section 60 of the Law.

Furthermore, in this instance, the Patent Office records show that an email reminder was sent to the agent -of-record on 10 April 2016 and shows up in the Patent Office system.

It is noted that providing a renewal service without charge is insufficient to free the agent -of-record from his obligations under the law.

The request for reinstatement is refused, but the Applicant has 30 days to submit a request for a hearing.

Re Reinstatement of IL 177416 – Decision by Ms Bracha, 11 February 2018.

COMMENT

Whilst Ms Bracha is correct that the patentee and agent-of-record are obliged to docket and track renewals, things can and do go wrong. Now the Patent Office is obliged to weigh the public interest against that of the patentee and there is, indeed, a six months’ grace-period. The fact that this month there were six cases of patents that unintentionally lapsed shows that this does happen. What I would like to humbly suggest is that the Patent Office takes it upon itself to send out a further reminder or preferably two; one when the deadline for renewal passes and one a month before the end of the grace-period. The Patent Office is equipped to do this automatically without human involvement. Doing so would increase Patent Office revenues and minimize the amount of time that the Commissioner and his staff have to deal with reinstatement issues.

issues.