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 »


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.


Unipharm without legal representation, wins Interim Proceeding Against Novartis

February 22, 2018

galvusIsrael  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 ” the patent application is a national phase of PCT/EP/2005/000400. It relates to a pharmaceutical used in the treatment for diabetes known as Vildagliptin (previously LAF237, trade names Galvus, Zomelis,) which is an oral anti-hyperglycemic agent (anti-diabetic drug) of the dipeptidyl peptidase-4 (DPP-4) inhibitor class of drugs. Vildagliptin inhibits the inactivation of GLP-1[2][3] and GIP[3] by DPP-4, allowing GLP-1 and GIP to potentiate the secretion of insulin in the beta cells and suppress glucagon release by the alpha cells of the islets of Langerhans in the pancreas.

Unipharm has opposed the patent issuing and, in an intermediate proceeding, Unipharm (not represented) submitted a disclosure request for:

  1. The specific testing referred to Appendix E of a the Applicant’s expert witness.
  2. All other tests relating to all the formulations that were performed where the particle size distribution was examined.

Unipharm

Alternatively, Unipharm requests that the part of the evidence that relates to the evidence submitted in the European Opposition proceeding from Dr Davis’ statement, including Appendix E, be struck.

The patent relates to tablets that are made by direct compaction and which include DPP-IV, (s)-1-[(3-hydroxy-1-adamantyl)amino]acetyl-2-cyanopyrrolidin (Vildagliptin) in free radical form or as a salt, wherein at least 80% of the particles compressed into the tablet are in size range of 10 microns to 250 microns.

novartis

In their Statement of Case, Novartis explains that use of direct compression was not obvious to persons of the art wishing to produce vildagliptin formulations, and the distribution and size of the particles affects the character of the tablet in a manner that determines the efficacy of the formulation. The chosen distribution enables tablets to be produced by direct compaction which have high quality, acceptable stability and good physical properties.

With respect to this, Novartis’ expert witness, Dr Davis, explains in his expert opinion as follows:

“There is no prior art suggesting that tablets of vildagliptin can be made using direct compression with this size range or any size range. This particle size range and percentage of the active agent is not disclosed in the prior art. It should be noted that the particle size distribution is important to achieving good physical properties in the tablet (e.g. good hardness). Evidence filed in a technical annex for the corresponding European Patent Application No.15199440.7 (available on-line from the EPO at https://register.epo.org/application?documentId=EZQR8ZQ06757DSU&number=EP15199440&lng=en&npl=false),  comparing 88% PSD of 10-250 micron (within the claim) versus 79% PSD of 10-250 micron (outside the claim) shows that the use of a particle size distribution as claimed is important in providing directly compressed tablets with good hardness (Appendix E).”

The Expert witness related to the technical appendixes that were submitted by the Applicant to the European Patent Office which compares tablets that fall within the ambit of claim 1 to those that do not, and this is the basis of the discovery request that Unipharm submitted.

Claims of the Parties

disclosureUnipharm’s opposition to this evidence is that Professor Davis relied on test results from tests that he himself did not conduct, and they express wonderment that Novartis did not produce the drug developers to be cross-examined. In response, the Applicants claim that the disclosure process should be allowed in cases where it is proven that the documents in question are relative to the proceeding in general and to the point of contention between the parties, and in this instance the Opposer did not justify his request for disclosure of documents and did not explain how the disclosure would help clarify the question under debate.

grain size

Novartis further allege that the request for disclosure is wide and general, in that it relates to all testing and formulations made, where particle size was examined. The Applicant further asserts that Dr Davis referred to Appendix E merely to show that it was published and not as evidence that the data therein is true (!?).

As to Unipharm’s alternative request, Novartis claims that the Opposer did not base this allegation, and that we are referring to an expert opinion based on data provided to him and his relying on the publication is equivalent to any expert relying on a professional publication such as a paper in a scientific journal or a patent application in a relevant field.

file-wrapperIn response, Unipharm claims that the Applicant’s expert, Professor Davis, did not merely testify that the document was included in the file wrapper of the European Patent Application, but also reached conclusions in his expert opinion that were based thereon. As far as anything connected to the scope of the disclosure, Unipharm focuses their request and asks to receive the documents relating to the experimentation with the particle distributions and efficacy of formulations made with the specific distributions.

Unipharm claims that the documents will reveal that the tests conducted, if indeed conducted, do not provide sufficient instruction to persons of the art to produce the invention successfully without additional experimentation and thus the patent application should be rejected as not enabled under Section 12 of the Israel Patent Law 1967.

Discussion and Ruling

legal fishing expedition

There is no doubt that the Commissioner of Patents can request disclosure and access to documents in opposition proceedings. The disclosure is efficient in that it provides documents to the Patent Office that are not covered by Section 18 of the Law (Duty of Disclosure) and which can help clarify if an application is patent worthy. However, disclosure is performed in a manner to prevent the Applicant going on an illegal fishing expedition in the Applicant’s filing cabinets.

The considerations to be weighed up prior to giving a disclosure order are detailed in Opposition to 60312 Biotechnology General Corp vs. Genentech Inc and in Opposition to 143977 AstraZeneca AB vs. Unipharm ltd, and these are the stage of the opposition reached; the amount of documents and their content; the weight of the claim that the Applicants are attempting to prove with the documents asked disclosure of, their evidential weight, the possibility of the Applicant to obtain the documents themselves, and the burden it will cause the opposing party.

In these rulings it was also determined that disclosure could damage the property rights of the opposing party by forcing revelation of trade-secrets. However, the possibility of such damage being caused does not remove the authority of the Patent Office to demand such a disclosure, but obliges consideration of the legitimate property rights of the party when applying that authority.

In the opinion of Commissioner Alon Ofir, Novartis is correct that the experimental results will have no effect on the average person of the art’s ability to implement the invention. The answer to this question is found in what is revealed and not in what is not revealed in the patent application.

Nevertheless, Unipharm is correct with regard to everything related to the tests described in Appendix E, since the Applicant himself relied upon this in his statement. In this regard the Commissioner does not accept that this evidence can be considered as external evidence that their Expert Witness relied on. The document was prepared by Novartis themselves, with data they control, and their expert witness relied on it in his Opinion.

tablet-compression-machine

The particle size distribution is claimed by Novartis themselves as being a central element of their invention, and the claims of the Application itself limits the requested patent to one wherein 80% of the particles are in the 10 micron to 250 micron range. The Applicants themselves state in their Statement of Case, that the choice of particle size and distribution is what enables the fabrication of tablets of an acceptable quality by direct compression. Their Expert Witness finds support for this claim in Appendix E which compares tablets having this particle distribution with tablets that do not.

In these circumstances, one should consider the documents as relating to the central question being debated by the parties. Thus the documents relating to Appendix E are ruled relevant and Novartis are required to provide not just those relied upon but other documents summarizing experiments done with the intention of producing Appendix E, even if not included therein.

Novartis is given 30 days to produce an Affidavit of Disclosure with the relevant documents describing test results obtained in the experimentation leading to Appendix E, whether or not included in the Appendix, but relating to the hardness of tablets made from different particle distribution.

As an after-note, the Opposer is chastised for using language that does not show respect for the proceedings which was inappropriate.

No costs are awarded.

Ruling on Interim Proceeding regarding disclosure, by Commissioner Ofir Alon, 3 January 2018.

COMMENT

trawlingIn court proceedings in the United States there is wide discovery and the parties effectively go on fishing expeditions with trawlers and haul up everything and then have to wade through the bycatch.  This is not the case in Israel. One can ask for specific documents, but have to justify the request. Thus I have used the term disclosure and not discovery.

self representation

In this instance, Unipharm is not-represented, or to be more accurate Dr Zebulun Tomer is representing himself. No doubt if he runs into trouble he will call on his attorney Adi Levit to represent them. It is unlikely that the inappropriate language lost Unipharm a costs award as, since they have not used legal counsel, they are not entitled to costs anyway.

We strongly discourage industrialists to represent themselves in Opposition proceedings. The Tomers, however, have so much experience of killing pharma patent applications that there are very few lawyers that have handled so many cases.


New Israel Patent Commissioner Makes Purpose Driven Interpretation of Patent Term Extension Legislation to Transfer Protection from One Drug to Another

December 21, 2017

Wyeth submitted a request for a patent term extension for Israel Patent Number 120701 titled “2 – PHENYL – 1 – [4 – (2 – AMINOETHOXY OR PROPOXY) ) – BENZYL] – INDOLE COMPOUNDS AND PHARMACEUTICAL COMPOSITIONS CONTAINING THEM ” The patent issued on 26 December 2005 and the basic 20 year protection period will run out on 18 April 2019.

CONBRIZAOn 17 June 2012 Conbriza was registered in the Israel register of drugs. Conbriza contains bazedoxifene acetate. This was the first Israeli registration of Bazedoxifene for medicinal purposes and so, on 19 October 2015, a patent term extension order issued for Conbriza, until 14 April 2022.

DuaviveOn 16 November 2016, the drug Duavive which contains bazedoxifene acetate together with conjugated estrogens was registered in the Israeli register. The Applicant explained that Duavive is a more modern version of Conbriza which Pfizer (which owns Wyeth) had developed and is marketing in Israel.

The treatments are both for treating the symptoms suffered during menopause, such as the so-called hot flushes.

calculation

On 22 May 2017, the Wyeth informed the patent office that Conbriza was taken off the drug register and Duavive was registered. Wyeth claimed that the change should not affect the patent term extension since both drugs contained bazedoxifene, and that the patent term extension should be calculated from the first of the registrations.

Following this notification, the Applicant was invited to attend a hearing under section 149 before a ruling issued. The Applicant did want to attend such a hearing and on 5 July 2017 the Commissioner Ophir Alon indicated that in the hearing, which was held on 31 July 2017, the Applicant would explain why they felt that the provisions of Section 64(vii)(3) should not apply in this case.

Ruling

Section ii(1) of Chapter D of the Law deals with patent term extensions. Inter alia, Section 64D of the Law states that:

64D. The Registrar shall not grant an extension order, unless the following conditions have been met:

(1) The material, the process for its production or its use, or the medical preparation that incorporates it or the medical equipment was claimed in the basic patent and the basic patent remains in effect;

(2) In respect of a medical preparation—a medical preparation that incorporates the material is registered in the Register of Medical Preparations under regulation 2 of the Pharmacists Regulations (Medical Preparations) 5746—1986 (hereafter: Pharmacists Regulations);

(3) The registration said in paragraph (2) is the first registration that allows the material to be used in Israel for medical purposes;

(4) No extension order was granted previously in respect of the basic patent or in respect of the material.

From here, it is clear that the condition for giving a patent term extension is that there is a registration of a drug that includes the active ingredient and it is the first registration that allows the active ingredient to be prescribed in Israel, which was not previously subject to a patent term extension.

Section 64L states the cases where a patent term extension lapses. In 64L(3) it is stated that:

64L. An extension order shall laps in each of the following instances:

(3) If registration of the medical preparation that incorporates the material was cancelled—on the day on which the registration was cancelled;

Thus the wording of the black letter law seems to be that if the registration including the active ingredient is cancelled, the Patent Term Extension is cancelled as well.

The Applicant’s claim is that in cases where the company that registered the first drug has a number of registrations for different drugs containing the active ingredient, the Legislators did not intend that the protection period would lapse simply because one of these was cancelled. Rather, the legislators intended that only in cases where at some time after the issuance of the extension period, there are no registrations of drugs including the active ingredient in Israel, the extension period would lapse. In such an instance, where there are no drugs on sale in Israel there is no legitimacy in keeping the patent term extension active and so Section 64L(3) applies.

The Applicant claims that since Duavive contains the active ingredient and was registered before the registration of Condiza was cancelled, one or other preparation containing the active ingredient was continuously registered in Israel and so the patent term extension remains in force.

The Purpose of the Patent Term Extension Regime

As known, the term of a patent is 20 years from filing in Israel [or from the PCT filing date – MF] subject to paying extension fees. This period is the accepted balance between the desire to encourage inventors on one hand, and to enable the population to benefit from technological advances on the other.

balance

This balance has a special regime for pharmaceuticals and medical devices that is given by Section B1 of Chapter 4 of the Law. This regime compensates patentees for delays in registration but allows the generic drug industry to prepare for market entry to the benefit of the population as a whole. Where the conditions of the Law are met, it is possible to extend patents for pharmaceuticals and medical devices by up to five years.

This is how things were presented on page 18 of Appeal 8127/15 Israel Association of Industrialists vs. Mercke Sharpe and Dohme Corp, 15 June 2016:

The purpose of the extension period is to compensate the patentee for the period of patent protection that is de facto lost due to the amendment of the patent law. The period of protection in Israel and other countries having patent term extensions takes into account the period that the patentee takes to register the drug which is longer than the period lost by the patentee. However, in the Draft Amendment by the Committee for Constitution, Law and Justice it is stated that the extension is for the period that the patent for the drug is registered but regulatory approval by the Ministry of Health has not yet occurred, and so the extension is identical to this period. Either way, the main purpose is to provide fair compensation to the patentee.

Explaining section 64L(3)

As stated previously, there are two possible interpretations to Section 64L(3) of the Law. In the first explanation the words “registration of the medical preparation that incorporates the material was cancelled” relates only to the first registration, as defined in Section 64D(2), so that when the first registration is cancelled, the patent term extension ends.

The second explanation, proposed by the Applicant, is that one should understand the words “registration of the medical preparation that incorporates the material was cancelled “ as relating to all drugs that include the active ingredient and not merely the first one to be registered, so that there are no drugs including the active ingredient on the register.

Ofir Alon

The New Commissioner Ophir Alon considers that the interpretation is in line with the rationale of the Law proposed by the Applicant. As stated previously, the intention of the legislator was to compensate the patentee for the period required to register the drug. Section 64D of the law refers to the conditions for granting a patent term extension. The purpose of 64D(2) of the Law is to ensure that the active ingredient has undergone registration, and that of 64D(3) to ensure that that this was the first instance of the active ingredient being registered.

Since these conditions are fulfilled, it does not seem that there is much significance in the first registration specifically, that its cancellation requires cancellation of the patent term extension and cancelling the compensation that the law provides the patentee, whilst the active material remains registered, albeit with other active ingredients.

Registration of more advanced or better drugs that include these active ingredients is desirable.  Such registration is likely to require additional registration by the Ministry of Health. Adopting an interpretation under which the cancellation of the first registration for which the patent term extension period was calculated automatically results in the cancellation of the patent term extension will lead to a situation in which the patentee who has several registrations will have to keep the registration of a drug not being sold in force merely to keep the patent extension in force. This is artificial and not desirable.

However, accepting the second interpretation allows the patentee to cancel or not renew the first registration whilst keeping the patent term extension in place to protect additional drugs subsequently registered. This prevents circumstances where a patent term extension is in place but no drugs are registered for sale in Israel.

In summary, it appears that the correct interpretation of the Law is to compensate the patentee for the period he could not exploit his patent whilst waiting for regulatory approval, which includes protecting the public interest by promoting development of new treatments, and these aims are achieved by the interpretation allowing the extension to stay in force as long as there are drugs that include the active ingredient.

This interpretation serves the purpose of the Law and the public interest as it provides an incentive for the patentee to develop new versions of its drugs, that are more advanced or more efficacious than the original treatment, and allows the cancellation of registrations that are n longer marketed.

The Commissioner is aware that linguistically, the objective pronoun “the medical preparation” apparently relates to the medical preparation mentioned previously. Nevertheless he does not think that a literal reading helps to clarify things in this instance. For example, if we were to take a literalist approach to understanding section 65L(3) we would wonder what the legislator intended by “including the ingredient” at the end of the section, since it is clear that the medical preparation whose registration was the basis of the patent term extension includes the active ingredient, as stated in Section 64D(2):

(2) in respect of a medical preparation—a medical preparation that incorporates the material is registered in the Register of Medical Preparations under regulation 2 of the Pharmacists Regulations (Medical Preparations) 5746—1986 (hereafter: Pharmacists Regulations);

FROM THE GENERAL TO THE SPECIFIC

The cancellation of the Conbriza registration occurred after Duavive was registered, and so in one form or another the active ingredient was continuously registered from when Conbriza was registered until today.

So, by applying a purpose-driven interpretation to Section 64L(3), the registration was never cancelled and from when the patent term extension was issued until today, the medical preparation was under continuous protection.

The medical preparation Duavive includes the bazedoxifene ingredient together with conjugated estrogens. In other words, to create continuity in the registration, the active ingredient has to be identical to the one for which registration was granted. The Patent Term Extension for Israel Patent No. IL 120701 will remain in force subject to the Applicant submitting an Affidavit that the combination of the bazedoxifene ingredient together with the conjugated estrogens does not create a new material. This affidavit must be submitted within 30 days of this ruling.

Ruling concerning the Patent Term Extension for Israel Patent No. IL 120701 for bazedoxifene (Conbriza and Duavive), Ophir Alon, 15 October 2017

COMMENT

This ruling could be a baptism of fire for the new Commissioner.

The main question that the appointment of a new commissioner generates is whether he will favour the drug development industry or the genetic drug industry. The sums of money generated every day of a patent term extension and in supplementary patent protection for variants such as changes in dosage regimes is enormous. In this regard, Israeli companies are involved as both generic players and as drug developers. Despite TEVA being the world’s most successful generic drug provider, It was Teva’s Copaxone falling over the so-called patent cliff that caused the massive drop in share prices and layoffs, rather than lost sales of generics.

Here the Commissioner has taken an analytical approach to the law, trying to understand the rationale rather than the most literal interpretation. This is in line with guidelines penned by Former Chief Justice Aharon Barak who was known for such interpretations, which perhaps less charitably and more formalistically could be described as subverting the Law as legislated to further lofty aims as he saw them. Such creative interpretations coupled with him declaring that Basic Laws were constitutional and reading into them powers that the Knesset never intended, has led to judicial activism that those on the right see as undermining the Knesset as legislator, and those on the left see as saving democracy from the people’s elected representatives.

I remember litigators that represent the drug developing companies saying during Dr Meir Noam’s term as Commissioner, that, until he was replaced, their clients could not get justice. I do not know if this was fair. Dr Noam was a chemist, and generally where he accepted Unipharm’s arguments that an opposed patent application lacked novelty or inventive step, their arguments were persuasive, or at least seemed so to me. Nevertheless, in practice, he did rule in favour of the generic companies, but his rulings held up on Appeal.

At the start of his term in office, the previous Commissioner, Adv. Asa Kling, could not rule on cases where one side was represented by Reinhold Cohn or Gilat Bareket because of a perceived conflict of interest. Centocor Ortho Biotech Inc. received regulatory approval for a pharmaceutical preparation described in IL 154325.

From the affidavits submitted by employees of the agents for applicant (Reinhold Cohn Patent Attorneys) it is clear that, despite the firm being organized and having procedures in place to cover patent term extensions, there was human error. The deadline was missed and this was discovered seven months later.

Section 164 A1 of the patent law states that:

164.—(a) The Registrar may, if he sees reasonable cause for doing so, extend any time prescribed by this Law or by regulations under it for the performance of anything at the Office or before the Registrar, except for…section 64… …unless he is satisfied that the application in Israel was not submitted on time because of circumstances over which the applicant and his representative had no control and which could not be prevented;

The Deputy Commissioner Jacqueline Bracha threw Reinhold Cohn a life-line by ruling that mistakes were unavoidable, thereby allowing a missed deadline for requesting patent term extensions to be retroactively extended despite the Law being unequivocal that the deadline was not extendible. For more details, see here.

The patent term extension legislation has been amended several times, in the third, seventh and eleventh amendments to the Israel Patent Law.

The third amendment was ambiguous and in an ex-partes ruling affecting three patents in what is now known as the Novartis ruling, Then Acting Commissioner Israel Axelrod understood that the amendment was designed to give a real advantage to the drug development companies and they could choose the country to base their patent term extension on.  This was not what the Knesset intended and the amendment was again amended in what was the Seventh Amendment of the Israel Patent Law, to tidy up this and other ambiguities of the original amendment. Israel Axelrod, who was widely expected to be appointed as Commissioner but instead, was side-ways promoted to the Beer Sheva District Court.

In 2006, under intense pressure from the US who put Israel on their special 301 Watch List of countries not properly protecting Intellectual Property, the State of Israel amended their Patent Law again.

Arguably the Commissioner is correct that the purpose of the Law is to strike a balance between the conflicting interests. Arguably, however, as in the Novartis ruling and subsequent amendment, the intention of the legislators remains to provide narrowest possible intention to rules governing patent term extensions, to encourage generic competition, thereby favoring local industry over foreign companies, and providing cheap medicine. We should bear in mind that the legislation was the result of heavy US protectionist pressure, and in the same way that the US government tries to benefit US interests, it is (at least arguably) legitimate that the Israel Law is intended to protect local interests as much as possible.

Teva is not, of course, the only Israel company to bring a drug to market. Neurim managed to patent Circadine which is a treatment for insomnia based on melatonin, and also obtained patent term extensions around the world. In the UK, the patent office refused to grand a patent term extension arguing that the active ingredient was used in a treatment for sheep.  Judge Arnold upheld the patent office’s position, see patent term extensions for Neurim which was appealed to the House of Lords, and Lord Robin Jacobs referred it to the European Court of Justice ECJ in his last ruling on the bench. The ECJ took a similar position to that of the current commissioner, preferring an interpretation that considers the rationale behind the law to a literalist ruling.

The main problem with ex-partes rulings is that arguments of the other side are not heard.  It is not inconceivable that Duavive works and Conbriza didn’t, not because of a new material being developed but because of some symbiotic effect between the bazedoxifene ingredient and the conjugated estrogens. In this instance, Duavive was developed by Wyeth/Pfizer but it is not inconceivable that such a drug could be developed by a third party. If the Conbriza formulation is not on sale and no other drug by the patentee, should Wyeth-Pfizer be entitled to a drug term extension past the main patent lapsing? Another hypothetic question worth considering is that an active ingredient protected by a patent term extension could actually not be so active at all, and could be co-dispensed with a drug that itself is active, but cannot be patented. The combination could be protected by the patent term extension in a scam designed to defraud the public. I am not alleging that this is the case here. I have no ideas what conjugated estrogens do or how they work. I am merely highlighting a slight logical flaw in the Commissioner’s reasoning.

That as may be, this ruling is a brave but reasonable one. Being ex-partes it cannot be challenged directly, but could be challenged by TEVA, Unipharm or some other generic company launching a Bazedoxifene containing formulation during the extension period.  The Knesset could also decide to amend the Patent Extension Law to rule out this interpretation if they deem fit to do so.


Cost Ruling in Moshe Lavi vs. Zach Oz – A failed attempt to get a poorly written patent canceled.

December 20, 2017

Figs for ACMoshe Lavi owns Israel Patent No. 157035 titled “MODULAR SUPPORT BRACKET” which describes  a support bracket for an air-conditioner unit. He’s tried to enforce it in the past against Zach Oz Airconditioners LTD, and the parties came to an out-of-court settlement.

Lavi then sued again, and Zach Oz countered by applying to have the patent cancelled. This attempt was unsuccessful and a ruling upholding the patent issued on 5 March 2017.

Lavi then applied for costs under Circular MN 80. According to Lavi and his attorneys, Pearl Cohen Zedek Latzer Brats, the costs incurred in fighting the Opposition were a fairly massive 526,750.058 Shekels!? We assume that there is a typo here, and the costs requested were just over half a million Shekels and not just over half a billion shekels, as that would be ridiculous even for Pearl Cohen. It seems that they charge in dollars and not Shekels, and are unaware of the need to round up to the nearest 5 agarot.

Lavi claims that he is entitled to the real costs incurred, which are reasonable, necessarily incurred and proportional in the circumstances. He accuses Zach Oz of acting in bad faith by challenging the validity of the patent. His counsel appended a list of legal counsel’s hours, invoices, and an affidavit by Moshe Lavi.

The Respondents Zach Oz, confusingly represented by an Adv. Pearl (not Zeev, even he is aware that fighting both sides of an opposition proceeding is not acceptable) claimed that the costs were unreasonable and some were unnecessary or disproportional. They also claimed that it was Moshe Lavi who acted inequitably. They note that the case-law states that costs are not meant to be a punishment, and the costs in this case were unreasonable and were incurred due to unnecessary wariness by the patentee. Furthermore, the adjudicator is supposed to take into account the public interest and importance in maintaining the integrity of the patent register. Awarding inflated costs in cases that they lose, would discourage people from challenging the validity of patents and would prevent access to legal recourse.

Ruling

The winning party is entitled to costs incurred in legal proceedings. However, the arbitrator is not obliged to rule actual costs, and is required to consider the specifics of the case and judicial policy. See paragraph 19 of Appeal 6793/08 Loar LTD vs Meshulam Levinsten Engineering and Subcontracting Ltd. 28 June 2009.

In the case-law it was ruled that for the Applicant for actual costs to prove that they are reasonable, proportional and necessary in the specific circumstances. See Bagatz 891/05 Tnuva Cooperative for Marketing Agricultural Produce in Israel Ltd. et al. vs. The Authority for granting Import licenses et al. p.d. 70(1) 600, 615 from 30 June 2005. The limitation of costs to being necessary and proportional is:

To prevent a situation wherein the costs awarded are too great, and will discourage parties from seeking justice, will create inequalities and make court proceedings unnecessarily costly, limiting access to the courts. (Appeal 2617/00 Kinneret Quarries ltd. cs. The Nazareth Ilit, Planning and Building Committee, p.d. 70(1) 600, (2005) paragraph 20.

The amount of work invested in preparing submissions, their legal and technical complexity, the stage reached in the proceedings, the behavior of the parties before the court of the patent office and with regard to opposing party, inequitable behavior of the parties, etc. All these are considerations that should be taken into account when considering “the  specifics of the case”.

In this instance, the patentee did win his case and is entitled to recoup costs, and the losing party does not dispute this. However, in this instance, the patentee is not entitled to the requested costs for reasons detailed below.

Firstly, after consideration of the case and the submissions, none of the parties appear to have acted inequitably. It is not irrelevant that neither party has related to the decisions made in this instance, including the main ruling. This is because there is no evidence of inequitable behavior by the parties. Similarly the affidavits are acceptable. In this regard, it is not reasonable to accept the patentee’s allegation that the challenge to their patent was baseless. The file wrapper shows that the challenger made a reasonable and fair attempt to show that the patent was void, based, inter alia, on prior art.

Furthermore, as to the costs requested, the adjudicator, Ms Shoshani Caspi did not think that they were reasonable, essential or proportional, as required by the Tnuva ruling.

The expert opinion of the expert who attended the hearing, costs of 29,685 Shekels including VAT were incurred. This was considered reasonable. It also appears to have been necessarily incurred. However, the Applicants did not need to use lawyers to prepare the expert opinion’s opinion for him, whilst claiming costs for him preparing his opinion as well. This is a double request for costs and should be eradicated.

In his Affidavit, Mr Lavi claimed that the challenge to his patent caused him to spend $137,901.37 including VAT. This is the 499,065.058 Shekels requested by the Applicant, excluding the expert opinion. The Affidavit explains that this sum includes his legal counsel’s work, couriers, printing, etc., however, no evidence of couriers and printing costs were given, and it appears that these incidentals were included in the invoices from his legal representative. To provide evidence for the legal costs incurred, invoices from PCZL were appended which included the hours spent by attorneys working on the case.

One cannot ignore the fact that the list of work done included demanding extensions, attempts to negotiate an out-of-court settlement, interim proceedings that the opposing party won, an appeal of the refusal to throw the case out, https://blog.ipfactor.co.il/2015/03/08/il-157035-if-one-accused-of-infringing-a-patent-does-not-challenge-its-validity-is-the-accused-estoppeled/

and other costs that are not essential and thus not reasonably chargeable to the other side.

double dipThe attempt to roll these unnecessary costs to the losing side and the double charging for the expert witness are inappropriate to use an understatement, and one assumes that these requests were made inadvertently as they were signed by educated attorneys that are well versed in the relevant legal processes.

Furthermore, after a detailed review of the file, Ms Yaara Shashani Caspi concluded that the case was relatively simple and there were neither particularly complicated legal or factual questions. Consequently, it is difficult to accept that the request for costs of 499,065.058 Shekels [sic] including VAT is reasonable, essential or proportional in the circumstances. It will be noted that as ruled in the Tnuva case (paragraph 19). The real costs that the patentee incurred is only the starting point and not the end point of the costs ruling.

It transpires that the time spent in each round was very large. For example, 65 hours was spent on a request to cancel an expert opinion, and 44 hours on the request for costs, etc. The Applicant did not provide an acceptable justification for these figures.

In light of the above, legal costs will be awarded by estimation, and in addition to the 27,685 Shekels (including VAT) to the expert witness, a further 150,000 Shekels (including VAT) are awarded in legal fees.

The deadline for paying the costs is 30 days, then interest will be incurred.

Legal Costs Ruling by Ms Shoshani Caspi in cancellation proceedings of IL 157035 Moshe Lavie vs. Zach Oz, 25 October 2017.

Comment

The whole case was mishandled by Zach Oz, who could and should have won the original infringement case in court, but decided to accept a poorly worded out-of-court settlement. By any reasonable attempt to construe the claims so that the patent was not anticipated by support brackets for shelves, Zach Oz’ supports were not infringing. In other words, they could have used the Gillette defense.

Ms Shoshani Caspi’s criticism of PCZL overcharging and double dipping is appropriate in this instance. The attempt to have the case thrown out on a creative estoppel based on not having challenged the validity of the patent when sued for infringement was ridiculous. Ironically, this patent is not worth the costs spent on litigating it. This is a clear instance of lose-lose by all concerned except the lawyers.


NOCTUROL

December 20, 2017

NocturolWellesley Pharmaceuticals LLC submitted Israel Trademark Application No. 284926 for NOCTUROL; a Pharmaceutical preparations for reducing frequency of urination in Class 5.

NocturnoUnipharm, a large Israeli generic drug manufacturer and distributor that sells the mild hypnotic Zopiclone as a treatment for insomnia under the brand-name NOCTURNO opposed the mark on 10 September 2017.

On 11 September 2017, the Court of the Israel Patent & Trademark Office gave Wellesley Pharmaceuticals two months to file a counter-statement of case.

The deadline of 11 November 2017 passed without a  a counter-statement of case being filed, and on 20 November 2017, Unipharm requested that their Opposition be accepted and the application refused.

Section 24(v) of the Trademark Ordinance states:

If the Applicant does not submit such a response, it is as if they have abandoned their mark.

The Opposition to Israel Trademark Application No. 284926 is thus accepted.

In general, the prevailing party is entitled to costs. The considerations are the time involved, complexity, work done, equitable behavior, etc. Under her Authority given in Section 69, the Adjudicator, Ms Yaara Shoshani Caspi, ruled costs of 2000 Shekels including VAT.

COMMENT

Notably, the director of Unipharm, Dr Zebulun Tomer (who has more experience in patent oppositions than any mere lawyer or patent attorney) filed the trademark Opposition himself, without involving their legal counsel Adi Levit.

As Unipharm did not use legal counsel, they are not entitled to costs. This is clear from Patent Oppositions where they prevailed in similar circumstances. The cost ruling was given without sides requesting costs and is appealable to the District Court. However, the I would be surprised if Wellesley contests it.


ENVY

December 20, 2017

276449Bacardi & Company LTD filed Israel Trademark Application Number 276449 consisting of a stylized mark comprising a pair of wings and the words ANGEL’S ENVY, the mark is for alcoholic beverages, except beers in class 33. They also filed Israel Trademark Application Number 275692 for North American whiskey; alcoholic beverages based on, or flavoured with North American whiskey.

ENVYLa Fée LLP filed Israel Trademark Application Number 278588 for ENVY as shown. The mark covers Spirits; absinthe; alcoholic beverages containing spirits; alcoholic beverages containing absinthe in Class 33.

(Absinthe  is an anise-flavoured spirit derived from botanicals, including the flowers and leaves of Artemisia absinthium (“grand wormwood”), together with green anise, sweet fennel, and other medicinal and culinary herbs. In other words, it seems to be a type of Arak,

angel's envyBacardi’s marks were filed on 31 March 2015, and La Fée’s marks were filed on 27 July 2016, before Bacardi’s marks were examined. As the marks were co pending, a competing marks proceeding ensued. On 26 June 2017 the parties were given three months to submit their evidence regarding their rights to the marks.

On 13 September 2017, La Fée LLP submitted an unclear communication that related to priority. On 14 September 2017 the Israel Patent Office requested clarification and asked if the submission was a type of evidence. However, La Fée did not respond. On 26 October 2010 after requesting and obtaining extensions, Bacardi submitted their evidence. In view of the lack of response from La Fée, on 7 November 2017, the patent office sent them a letter giving a grace period of a week to submit their evidence. However, La Fée LLP did not respond.

Section 67 of the Trademark Ordinance 1972 states that

Subject to any regulation under this Ordinance, evidence is proceedings before the Registrar shall be by affidavit under section 15 of the Evidence Ordinance (New Version) 5732 -1971, or by declaration made abroad under the law of the place where it is made, so long as the Registrar does not otherwise direct; but the Registrar may, if he thinks fit, take oral testimony in lieu of or in addition of written evidence, and may permit the deponent or declarant to be cross-examined.

In this instance, La Fée did not submit any affidavit and there does not seem to be any justification for them failing to do so.

Consequently, regulation 25(b) applies:

If the Applicant fails to submit a detailed response within three months of the invitation to do so, the Applicant will consider the Application as cancelled under Section 22 of the Ordinance and a notice to that effect will be sent to the Applicant.

Since La  Fée chose not to submit evidence at all, and not to respond in any way to the Queries from the Court of the Patent Office, the Adjudicator, Ms Yaara Shoshani Caspi ruled that filed Israel Trademark Application Number 278588 for ENVY be considered abandoned, and Bacardi’s marks proceed to examination.

Using her powers to rule reasonable costs under Section 69 of the Ordinance, noting that Bacardi did exert effort in responding and Le  Fée’s behavior, she ruled that le Fée pay 15000 Shekels costs (excluding VAT) to Bacardi within 14 days or the costs will be index linked and bear interest until paid.

Competing marks ruling concerning 276449, 275692 and 278588, Yaara Shoshani Caspi , 16 November 2017.