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.


November 8, 2017


LES Israel and IPAA invite you to an event on Wednesday, November 15, 2017, 09:00-
12:30 at ZOA House (אמריקה ציוני בית ,(26 Ibn Gabirol St. (corner of Daniel Frisch St.), Tel
Aviv (The presentations will start at 9:30).
The event will be dedicated to the topic:
Patent Term Extension Peculiarities
Israel and Europe
The topic will be presented by distinguished speakers, as follows:
 Mr. Liad Whatstein (Liad Whatstein, Adv.), Founding Partner of the Israeli law firm Liad
Whatstein & Co.:
Patent Term Extensions under Israeli law – The Eccentricities of The Local System
 Mr. Tjibbe Douma (Tjibbe Douma, Adv.), Senior Associate at the law firm of De Brauw
Blackstone Westbroek NV, The Netherlands; and
Ms. Tessa Malamud-Cohen (Tessa Malamud-Cohen, European and Israeli Patent Attorney),
Director, Patents, Global Intellectual Property of Ferring Pharmaceuticals/Bio-Technology
General (Israel) Ltd.:

SPC Squatting: SPCs Based on Third Party Marketing Authorization
 Mr. Tal Band (Tal Band, Adv.), Head of the IP Practice Group in the Israeli law
firm S. Horowitz & Co.:
Patent Term Extensions in Israel – When is it “Game Over”?

We will allocate some time at the end of the event for discussion and welcome comments
from the audience.
The event is free to LES Israel and IPAA members.
Non-members: NIS 70 charge.

Kindly confirm your participation by return email to les_israel@yahoo.com.

COMMENTS

The speakers are considered distinguished by IPAA and LES. I’ve cut and pasted their notification verbatim. I do not disagree, but merely wish to note, that the adjective is not one I chose. The speaker list is balanced in that Tal represents TEVA who usually are generics opposing patent term extensions (although recently trying to reinvent Copaxone to keep it evergreen). Liad works for the patent developers who try to obtain patent term extensions, and Tessa works in-house in the industry. I do not remember meeting Mr. Tjibbe Douma and suspect with a name like that, I would.

counting-sheepMy extensive practice has not involved patent term extensions since I split with Jeremy Ben-David, whose father, Dr Stanley Davis, drafted the Neurim patents for Circadin, whose UK Patent Term Extension went to the European Court of Justice, see here, here, here, etc, so the event has little interest to me personally, although is clearly important for the pharma crowd. Perhaps we should let sleeping sheep lie.


Teva Abandons Opposition but Application Ruled Invalid Anyway

July 5, 2017

 

AstellasAstella Pharma filed Israel Patent Application No. 178249 titled “Pharmaceutical Composition for use in Solid Formulation Crystalline Solifenacin or Salt Thereof and a Process for its Preparation”. The Application was the national phase of PCT/JP/2005/005377 which was filed on 24 March 2005 and claimed priority from a couple of earlier US provisional applications.

The Application relates to a solid pharmaceutical containing Solifenacin or Solifenacin Succinate that is up to 77% amorphous as determined using NMR.

solef moleculeThe Application was allowed, and on 27 February 2002 Teva Pharmaceuticals submitted an Opposition. On 26 June 2013, Astella requested permission to amend the specification. Teva opposed some of the amendments and in an interim ruling of 19 May 2014 Ms Jacqueline Bracha approved some of the amendments, which were then published for Opposition purposes, and since no oppositions were submitted, were then allowed. This ruling relates to the amended specification.

On 29 July 2015, instead of submitting an amended statement of case, Teva abandoned the Opposition. Nevertheless, on 27 March 2016, in a detailed ruling, Ms Bracha explained to Astella that under the Authority granted by Section 34 of the Law, she was refusing to grant the patent. The ruling was based on two publications that Teva had submitted in the Original statement of case that showed that persons of the art would expect the rate and degree of solubility to increase with increased amorphousness of a tablet. On 22 May 2016 the Applicant requested an oral hearing which was held on 4 January 2017 and this ruling follows that hearing.

Applicant’s Claims

Astella, represented by Gilat Bareket, claimed that in a Section 34 proceeding, the burden of proof is on the Commissioner. The claim that since the Opposition was abandoned and following allowance by the Examiner, there is an assumption of validity. Therefore, the Commissioner has to overcome this rebuttable assumption.

The Applicant claims that the prior art describes a process for fabricating Solifenacin hydrochloride crystals. It did not relate to amorphous Solifenacin or to degradation of the amorphous Solifenacin or to medical formulations comprising Solifenacin Succinate.

The Applicant claims that there is a continuous decrease of the active ingredient due to degradation which they determined to be due to the amorphous Solifenacin that is produced in when preparing the tablets.

The Applicant clarified that restricting the amount of the amorphous Solifenacin to no more than 77% increases the stability and reduces degradation to rates tolerable in Japan. Furthermore, the Applicant found that when the fabrication process is wet granulation they can control the amount of amorphous material by controlling the moisture levels. They also claim that using PEG as a binder also lowers the degradation, however the Deputy Commissioner notes that this was not claimed and is thus not part of the invention.

As stated, the invention is intended to provide a stable formulation with less than 0.4% degradation of Solifenacin Succinate in the total amount.

The discussion related to the following publications:

  • Ahlneck and G. Zografi., The Molecular Basis of Moisture Effects on the Physical and Chemical Stability of Drugs in the Solid State,Int. J. PHARM., vol. 62(2-3) (1990) – “Appendix 10”;
  • Y.Shalaev and G. Zografi., How Does Residual Water Affect the Solid-State Degradation of Drugs in the Amorphous State?, J. PHARM. SCI., vol. 85(11) (1996) –  “Appendix 9”;
  • C. Hancock and G. Zografi., Characteristics and Significance of the Amorphous State in Pharmaceutical Systems, J. PHARM. SCI., vol. 86(1)(1997) – “Appendix 11”.

The Burden of Proof

The Applicant alleges that the burden of proof resides with the Commissioner. In Y Kedmi “On Evidence”, 4th Edition 2009, it is stated that the burden of evidence depends on the substantive law:

The determination regarding which side bears the burden of proof depends on two basic principles:

  • “The one seeking redress has the burden of proof” [Baba Kama 46a] and this may be plaintiff or the defendant, depending on circumstances.
  • “Evidence follows the Substantive Law” – both when establishing the basis of the legal claim / defense, and when overcoming presumptions.

burden of proofAs a general rule, the burden of proof that a patent application is registerable is on the Applicant see 665/84 Sanofi ltd. vs Unipharm ltd. p.d. 41(4) 729 and Appeal 645-06-13 Unipharm vs. Lilly Icos, 26 January 2014.

The Opposition is considered as a completion of the Examination, and the allowability is reconsidered. It serves to protect the integrity of the register and the executive examination, see Opposition of IL 136482 Bromium Compounds ltd vs. Albermarle Corporation USA, 7 November 2010:

It appears that the attitude of the court has changed since then. Now the Supreme Court sees the Opposition process as a completion of the executive examination that is designed to ensure the public interest and the integrity of the register.

The public interest that the Opposition proceedings serves is detailed in 2826/04 Commissioner of Patents vs. Recordati Ireland Ltd. p.d. 59(2) 85.

The purpose of the Section 34 proceeding is identical to that of Oppositions, i.e. to maintain the integrity of the register, see the Section 34 ruling concerning IL 156034 Serguei Borisovish Sivolovenko vs. Diamcad NV, 25 January 2015:

The Section 34 proceeding is another hurdle that the Applicant may have to negotiate before receiving a patent. During this proceeding, the Commissioner is allowed to consider all the material before him from the Opposition proceeding, and to decide whether to uphold the Examiner’s decision or to change it. The purpose is no different from that of Examination or Oppositions, and is to protect the integrity of the register and the public interest to not issue patents contrary to Section 3 of the Law. Successful negotiation of the Examination stage does not bestow a right to a patent.

The patentee’s right to a monopoly for the patented invention is in rem. Consequently he has to show that the invention fulfils all the requirements of patentability under the Law. The burden of proof only changes once a patent issues. This was clarified by Commissioner Kling in IL 142896 and IL 179379 Medice Arzneimittel GmbH & Co.KG Alkermes Pharma Ireland Ltd, 4 April 2017.

In a cancellation proceeding, the burden of proof that a patent is invalid is on the Requester for cancellation. For example, this was established in Appeal 8802/06 Unipharm ltd. vs. Smithkline Beecham PLC, 18 May 2011:

Section 37 of the Law completes this idea by establishing that Examination and granting of a patent do not guarantee it has validity. So the issuance of a patent by the Commissioner does not create a non-rebuttable assumption of validity. It merely establishes that the Commissioner considered it issuable. (appeal 47/87 Hasam Systems for Defence of Trustworthiness ltd. vs. Bahari, p.d. 45(5) 194, 201-202 (1991). However, the burden of proof that an issued patent is invalid is on the party claiming invalidity (See Appeal 665/84 Sanofi vs. Unipharm ltd. p.d. 41(4) 729, 736 (1987), Appeal 700/78 Isisco International Company for Solar Energy Systems ltd. vs. Banit, p.d. 34(1) 757, 763 (1979).
Thus, before a patent issues, the burden of proof is on the Applicant.

Validity of Patent Application

On page 2 of the Application, the Applicant notes that solifenacin was known as was its efficacy for treating diseases of the urinary tract, salts of solifenacin and the crystalline state of solifenacin hydrochloride and methods of manufacture.

VesicareSolifenacin Succinate was used in Vesicare, see accompanying flyer which was published in December 2004, before the priority date of the present application. The synthesis of Solifenacin Succinate is also described in the prior art (Appendix 3 of the Opposer’s Statement).

The Applicant claims that during development of the formulation they discovered that there is degradation where the amorphous state is present. The Applicant claims that the prior art was unaware of this phenomenon and thus did not address it.

Appendix 9 page 1137 teaches that exposure of solid pharmaceuticals to high moisture results in degradation:

“It is widely recognized in the pharmaceutical field that exposure of solid drugs (small molecules or proteins) to high relative humidity and the resulting association of water vapor with the solid generally accelerate the rate of chemical degradation.”

Further on it is mentioned that the instability typically occurs in the amorphous part of the formulation:

“…most instabilities observed for drugs occur in solution much more readily than in the solid state; when they do occur over practical time scales in the solid state, it is very likely that the reaction is taking place in the more disordered amorphous regions of the solid. Indeed, it has been shown in a number of cases that under otherwise identical conditions reactivity of a particular substance in the amorphous state is greater than that in the crystalline state.”

Appendix 11 teaches that in cases where the active ingredient is found in an amorphous form, this is likely to accelerate the degradation. However, sometimes, the amorphous form spontaneously crystallizes:

“The high internal energy and specific volume of the amorphous state relative to the crystalline state can lead to enhanced dissolution and bioavailability, but can also create the possibility that during processing or storage the amorphous state may spontaneously convert back to the crystalline state.

… In the first, a material may exist intrinsically in the main amorphous state or it may be purposefully rendered amorphous and we would like to take advantage of its unique physical chemical properties. Under these circumstances we usually want to develop strategies to prevent physical and chemical instability of the amorphous sample. In the second case, we may be dealing with a crystalline material that has been inadvertently rendered amorphous during processing. This type of amorphous character usually exists predominantly at surfaces at levels not easily detected and has the potential to produce unwanted changes in the physical and chemical properties of the system. In this situation we usually want to process the system so that the amorphous portions of the solid are converted back to the most thermodynamically stable crystalline state.”

amorphousThe Application describes attempts by the applicant to prove that there is a connection between the amorphous state and the results of degradation F1 (table 2 on page 38 of the Application.

The Applicant compared the stabilities of samples 1-4 that included 63%, 73%, 715 and 7% amorphous material, with samples 1-3 that contained 92%, 90% and 92% amorphous material. However, the results of table 2 do not show a clear correlation between the amount of amorphous material and the F1 decomposition product. For example, example 1 had 63% amorphous material but only 0.31% F1, whereas example 2 had 73% amorphous material but only 0.29% F1, and in comparative sample 1 with 92% amorphous material  there was 0.48% F1, and in comparative sample 3 with 92% amorphous material  there was 0.4% F1.

Furthermore, as can be seen from table 2, the moisture of the granulate influences the F1 breakdown product, and can at least partially explain the difference between the results of comparison samples 1 and 3. The Applicant claims that there is some correlation between the water content of the granulate and the amount of amorphous material but it is not certain that the amorphous material content influences the amount of F1 degradation product.

japaneseFurthermore, it appears that the 0.4% limit that the Applicant set was based on the Japanese Health Ministry requirements and was not empirically determined. The Applicant admits that the Japanese acceptable limit was 0.5% and 0.4% is preferable. Table 2 shows that even where the amorphous quantity exceeded 77%, less than 0.5% of F1 was obtained.

Even if we assume that the Japanese Ministry of Health limits are desirable, the applicant has not established that there is a problem attaining these limits that the invention overcomes, due to the stability of the salt. The 77% amorphous material limit is also not empirically established. The Applicant was not able to produce Solifenacin Succinate with more than 0.5% F1 degradation product, and there is no linear connection between moisture content and amorphous material content.

Applicant does not deny that amorphous Solifenacin Succinate can spontaneously crystallize (see Appendix 2 and letter of 5 December 2012 and “Analysis of Appeal in European examination file from 17 April 2012 that the Applicant submitted in the corresponding European application. The slight differences in F1 product are even less significant due to this spontaneous crystallization.

There are a few more paragraphs regarding the various compositions and the binder (that wasn’t claimed and then, the Deputy Commissioner states that) from another angle, Appendix 9 teaches that there is a close connection between moisture and the amount of amorphous material present – page 113:

“Generally, for reactions occurring in the amorphous solid state, the rate of reactivity increases with increasing water content, and this can be attributed to the ability of the amorphous solid to absorb water vapor into its bulk structure, forming an amorphous solution. In a few cases it has been reported that a certain amount of water must be present to ensure chemical stability, e.g., lipid peroxidation rates decrease with the addition of small amounts of water; however, a destabilizing effect of absorbed water is more generally the case for the major types of drug degradations, e.g., hydrolysis, oxidation, or deamidation.”

So it seems that average persons of the art at the time in question would conclude that limiting moisture would limit the amorphous material in the formulation and this would, in turn, limit degradation. Consequently, this has no inventive step whatsoever.

CONCLUSION

The invention is wholly lacking in inventive step and so the IL 178249 Application is rejected.

COMMENTS

I am not a pharmacist, but have a fairly strong background in chemistry. It seems to me to be fairly obvious how to control the crystallization rate and extent, and how this will affect solubility. Possibly high school thermodynamics in inadequate, but a basic undergraduate course of chemical thermodynamics is more than adequate to predict this invention, so it seems to me that the Deputy Commissioner was correct to refuse the patent.

Formally, the Opposer is wrong to claim that the onus of proof is on the Commissioner. The case-law considers the Opposition proceeding as part of Examination and does not assume that the Examiner concluding that an invention is patentable establishes a presumption of validity. TEVA’s withdrawal of their Opposition may have been a commercial decision. In practice, although formally Israel requires an inventive step, an Examiner has to show anticipation or obviousness not to grant a patent. TEVA made some of the scientific literature of record, and the Deputy Commissioner was correct to relate to it.

This decision seems to be correct. However Astella, may appeal it to the courts.


Unipharm Awarded 200,000 Shekels Costs

July 3, 2017

UnipharmIn the past we reported the ruling concerning Unipharm’s Opposition to IL 195087 to Novartis. On winning the Opposition, Unipharm filed a request for costs.

OVERVIEW OF OPPOSITION

The patent published for opposition purposes on 31 October 2012, and Unipharm submitted their Opposition on 3 January 2013, and a statement of case on 26 February 2013. The Applicant amended the application on 26 June 2013, and as no opposition to the amendments were submitted by Unipharm or by the public, the amendments were allowed. There was an intermediate attempt to have the case thrown out that Novartis lost, where costs of 5000 Shekels were awarded to Unipharm on 24 February 2014.

On 24 February 2017, an oral proceeding took place. The Opposer submitted their summation on 24 August 2016, and the Applicant submitted their summation on 30 November 2016; response to which was filed on 20 December 2016.

In a ruling of 21 February 2017, the Opposition was accepted and the application was rejected.

Following Unipharm winning the Opposition proceeding, they submitted a request for costs, asking for 311,217 Shekels as follows:

  1. Refund of 2000 Shekels filing fee for filing opposition
  2. 5000 Shekels previously ruled against Unipharm for unsuccessful interim proceeding consisting of trying to get the Opposition thrown out
  3. 5000 Shekels awarded against Opposer in decision of 28 July 2015 regarding getting some of the evidence struck from the record
  4. 34,392 Shekels for interim proceedings
  5. 72,549 Shekels for preparing for cross-examination and attending hearing
  6. 108,980 Shekels for summation
  7. 48,296 Shekels for analyzing and responding to Applicant’s summation
  8. 35,000 Shekels for preparing the request for costs

The request for costs was supported by an Affidavit from CEO Mr Zebulun Tomer.

In the early stages of the Opposition, Unipharm was not represented. Mr Zebulun Tomer filed the Opposition himself and only after filing a statement of case, was Adv. Adi Levit employed. Mr Tomer additionally requested costs for his own time, but did not elaborate.

The Applicant alleged that the costs requested were not justified and were exaggerated. Applicant also alleged that a lot of the costs, such as costs incurred in trying to get evidence struck from the record, were not refundable.

The Ruling

The Commissioner’s authority to rule costs is based on Section 162b of the Israel Law of Patents 1967:

The Commissioner has the authority to rule reasonable costs and to decide which of the parties will pay the costs and how they will be paid.

rulingAs ruled by the Supreme Court in Bagatz 9891/05 Tnuva vs. The Authority for Imports pd. 60(1) 600, 615 30 June 2005, the costs award considers circumstances, the amount of work performed, particularly in submissions and preparing evidence, complexity, stage reached, equitable behavior of the parties, and so on.

Costs are not intended to be refund of all expenses laid out, so that, for the winning party, it would be as if they never laid out money. Sometimes a party does NOT receive full costs: See IL 13433 Smithkline Beecham Corporation (SKB) vs. Teva Pharmaceuticals ltd., 30 May 2005.

Furthermore, to the extent that costs appear extraordinary, the amount of details required to substantiate the claim for costs that is required is more. See Opposition to IL 153109 Unipharm vs. Mercke Sharp & Dohme Corp., 29 March 2011.

The Commissioner does not consider that Unipharm’s submission was sufficiently detailed with regards to attorney fees incurred. Submitting invoices that do not detail the work done is insufficient. There is no detail regarding the attorney’s hourly rate and the number of hours worked. The Commissioner also does not consider the costs requested were reasonable when considering the specific case.

calculationHowever, the winning party is entitled to recoup costs. Since the applied for costs were insufficiently detailed, the Commissioner estimated costs, basing himself on the Tnuva and other rulings.

 

After doing his calculations and estimations, etc., the Commissioner ruled 200,000 Shekels + VAT as appropriate costs for the legal work undertaken.

 

Dr Tomer’s Costs

Citing the appropriate precedents, including Opposition IL 173788 Unipharm vs. Lundbeck, IL 166621 Unipharm vs. Neurocrine Biosciences Inc., etc., the Commissioner ruled that Unipharm’s CEO’s time could not be charged to the Applicant.

Refunding costs of Opposer for Application to have Evidence Struck from Record

It has been established that one does not charge a party for costs that opposing party incurred in interim procedures that were rejected – See Opposition to IL 141762 Unipharm vs. Novartis, 21 June 2013.

Conclusion

As to the previous issued ruling of 25 April 2014 that Novartis should pay 5000 Shekels costs to Unipharm for failed attempt to have opposition thrown out, the Commissioner considered this sum as outstanding, but that there was no need to readdress the issues.

The Commissioner thus ruled that Novartis should pay 2000 Shekels legal fees and 200,000 Shekels + VAT costs to Unipharm.

Opposition by Unipharm against ILL 195087 to Novartis, Ruling re Costs by Asa Kling 7 May 2017


Extension of Israel Patent Extended

June 8, 2017

BSSIsrael Patent No. 164987 to Bristol-Myers  Squibb is titled ” PROLINE DERIVATIVES AND  PHARMACEUTICAL COMPOSITIONS CONTAINING THE SAME”. On 9 January 2017, the relevant Examiner calculated that the patent was entitled to a 479 day extension. The patentee has appealed this calculation.

The patentee’s representative submitted his calculation and a hearing was held on 28 May 2017. Following the hearing, the Deputy Commissioner accepted the arguments and ruled that the extension should be 679 days.

SunvepraThe patent term extension is for the active ingredient of Sunvepra which is asunaprevir. The Application for a patent term extension was under section 64(o) of the Israel Patent Law. The Applicant notes that the drug is not marketed in any of the relevant States as per section 64(a) and so the period of protection should be calculated on the basis of Section 64(i)(b) as follows:

If the registration is only requested in Israel, the patent term extension will be in force for a period equivalent to that from when the request for registration was submitted to when approval occurred, so long as the Applicant acted equitably and with appropriate efficiency.

The disagreement between the Examiner and the Applicant concerns the proper interpretation of the term approval as used to indicate the period of the extension. There is consensus that this period starts with the submission for regulatory approval, but the end of this period is disputed. The Examiner considered that this period terminates with the registration of the medication in the register of medical formulations as per section 47a of the Pharmaceutical Ordinance 1981. The patentee contends that the date should be the date on which approval for sale of the drug occurs.

In accordance with Section 64a of the Law, the term approval is defined in section (b)1 of the Law in the same manner as in section 54a as follows:

In this Section, ‘approval’ is authorization or permission or other document needed to sell the product.

The Legislative was aware of the difference between the term רישוי meaning approval and רישום meaning registration. The term רישום (registration) is used in sections 64(d)2 and 64(d)3. The meaning of the term רישום (registration) is registration in the Register of Medical Formulations under section 47a of the the Pharmaceutical Ordinance.

The term רישוי (approval) used by the legislative for calculating patent term extensions is wider and includes all approvals needed to market the product. Where the product is a medical device there is no disagreement that after registration in the register there are other approvals necessary before a product can be marketed to the public. These approvals are listed in regulations 14-18 of the Regulations or Pharmacists (formulations) 1986 and we are concerned with the first of these in regulation 14:

No one may market a formulation for the first time in Israel unless it is from a batch that receives marketing approval from the manager.

The Examiner himself was aware that to marketing approval was required in addition to registration as is clear from his letter of 6 September 2016. There is no doubt that this marketing approval was only signed on 4 September 2016 as is clear from the appendix to the Affidavit of Ms Talya Ben-David, Brostol-Myer Squibb’s regulatory manager in Israel. So although the formulation was registered from 18 February 2016, it was only approved for marketing some 200 days later.

The Applicant’s understanding of the Law is ‘technical’. As is clear from the Appeal to the Jerusalem District Court 223/09 Lundbeck vs. Unipharm (25 May 2009) regarding understanding terminology of the Law:

One can therefore say that the substantive scope of considerations that the Commissioner may use when determining the period of protection is different from that when considering a patent application. Deciding whether an invention is patentable is by nature discretionary in that it requires ascertaining novelty, inventiveness, utility, etc. In contradistinction, when determining the appropriate patent term extension, the Commissioner is limited to considering the formal requirements of the Law, without consideration of the way the invention works or the Applicant’s investment in inventing, developing and registering. This is what the legislative body decided was the appropriate way to balance the conflicting interests when providing patent term extensions. The burden on the Commissioner is technical and is designed to be objective.

It so happens that this technical calculation also corresponds to the purpose of the Law which is to compensate the Applicant for regulatory delays whilst enabling competitors to test and develop their generic equivalents without infringing the patent.

Section 54a of the Law, legislated as an amendment to the 1967 Law, cancels the de facto extension of products requiring approval (particularly drugs), by enabling generic competitors to prepare for and obtain regulatory approval whilst the patent is in force and to launch their products immediately on the patent lapsing. In compensation for this change, the patentees were allowed to obtain patent term extensions. The extension is not for the whole patent but only prevents manufacturing and sale of the medical formulation that includes the material covered by the patent (Section 64(h)d of the Law). Just as the de facto extension for regulatory approval is needed to market the drugs, so the compensation for the drug developers, by enabling patent term extensions, is tied to approvals. The patent term extension is needed to compensate the patentees for “the period that has passed until the patentee receives approval from the Israel Office”. See also the words of explanation for the fourth amendment to the Patent Law (use and patent term extension) 1997, Draft Law 2664 page 146 onwards.

Although the Israel Law is not identical to the arrangements reached in the US and in Europe, it seems that there also, the patent term extension is calculated from the time that all approvals are received. See for example Section 14 of the Medical REGULATION (EC) No 469/2009 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL   concerning the supplementary protection certificate for medicinal products of 6 May 2009:

“The certificate shall take effect at the end of the lawful term of the basic patent for a period equal to the period which elapsed between the date on which the application for a basic patent was lodged and the date of the first authorisation to place the product on the market in the Community, reduced by a period of five years.”

See also 35 USC 156 which deals with determining the “regulatory review period for the approved product” and also the words of explanation for the 13th amendment of the Patent Law 2012:

“The approval of the extension period for patents for medical formulations and medical devices of the type given in the US (Patent Term Extensions PTE) under Section 156 of Volume 35 of the US Code. This approval extends the US patent for delays in obtaining regulatory approval for marketing medical formulations and medical devices that occur after the patent issues, and half of the period for clinical trials for the same medical formulations and medical devices, with deductions from this period for tardiness by the patentee in obtaining such regulatory approval. The period of the Approval given in the US under the US Law cannot exceed five years and cannot extend beyond fourteen years from the first marketing approval of that medical formulation or medical device.

However, reference to foreign laws is not required since the term ‘approval’ in Section 64(i)2 is clear and unambiguous:.

The proceeding for considering the request for a patent term extension

extension

Section 64(o)b provides a very short period for examining requests for patent term extensions. This short period obligates fast examination and does not allow back and forth exchanges between the Examiner and the Applicant.

The examination of the patent term extension request commenced on 6 September 2016. In an Office Action the Examiner explained that the Application did not accord with Section 64(d)(3) of the Law since at the time of the Application, there was no regulatory approval in Israel, so he considered that the registration did not allow the formulation to be legally marketed.

The Applicant challenged this ruling before the Commissioner but this before this was substantively considered, an Affidavit was submitted that showed that marketing approval was given on 4 September 2016 and so the Commissioner ordered the request to be examined.

On 8 January 2017 the Examiner informed the Applicant that the Commissioner was willing to give a 783 day extension, and gave him a month to relate to this. The method of calculation was not detailed.

calculationThe following day, on 9 January 2017, the Applicant requested details of this calculation and established telephone contact with the Examiner. The contents of the conversation were not documented but the Applicant’s representative explained the main points discussed. [why the Examiner wasn’t interviewed is not discussed]. In the discussion, it was noted that an error had occurred in calculating the extension period which did not conform with either the Applicant’s or the Examiner’s interpretation of the Law. The Examiner considered that the extension period should be from when regulatory approval was requested until registration of the product. Consequently, that day, 9 January 2017, the Examiner issued a letter correcting the 783 days to 479 days, commencing on 27 October 2014, when regulatory approval was sought, and ending on 18 February 2016 when registration occurred. Due to an error, the Applicant was not given a month to appeal this decision. Instead, it was published in the January 2017 patent journal. Thus on 31 January 2017, a notice that an extension would be given under Section 64(e)c of the Law, despite the Applicant appealing the decision on 22 January 2017. It is emphasized that Section 64(e)c of the Law allows the Commissioner to publish the announcement within 60 days, thereby allowing the Applicant to appeal the examiner’s decision prior to it publishing, which is his right under section 161 of the Law.

There is no doubt that the publication is an error that should be corrected under Section 170 of the Law. The error is twofold: Firstly, it should not have published before the Applicants appeal was heard. Secondly, the publication did not accord with Section 64(i)b of the Law, as clarified in this ruling.

Therefore, a new announcement will publish in the June 2017 journal to the effect that the patent term extension is 679 days. Under section 170(c) the public may oppose this correction.

Ruling by Deputy Commissioner Bracha regarding Patent Term Extension to IL 164987.

COMMENT

I found this ruling convincing and concur that it seems to fit with the intent of the Law and not just with its literal wording. However, the corrected calculation may be opposed both substantively based on alternative interpretations and also due to third parties relying on the shortened term. We await further developments.

 

  

 

 


Teva Challenges Gilead Patent Application for HIV Treatment

May 8, 2017

drug cocktailThis ruling relates to a treatment for HIV consisting of a single once-a-day dosage that includes a combination of two or three different active ingredients.

Israel Patent Application No. 169243 to Gilead is titled “PHARMACEUTICAL COMPOSITIONS FOR COMBINATION ANTIVIRAL THERAPY”. It is the national phase of PCT/US2004/000832 filed on 13 January 2004 and claiming priority from a couple of US provisional applications filed on 14 January 2003. Gilead purchased Triangle so that they would have the capability of producing both  FTC and TDF and in a press release in Bioworld in 2002 which quoted Gilead’s Chairman and CEO, they announced their intention to develop a single dosage formulation that included TDF and FTC, referring to the chemicals by their trade names of Viread and Coviracil. This announcement preceded the priority date and since they announced that they did not anticipate difficulties in formulating the combination, their announcement undermined claims 1 and 12 directed to the combination of TDF and FTC in the standard dosages of Viread and Coviracil. There were additional independent claims for FTC and TDF together with an additional active ingredient – either Reyataz, Kaltera or Sustiva. However, that combination was used in a clinical trial for treating Hepatitis B that was also prior art. This ruling addresses and clarifies the requirements for prior art to be anticipating and what is required to provide an inventive step. It also relates to the issues of claim support, enablement and utility.

History

GileadIsrael Patent Application No. 169243 to Gilead is titled “PHARMACEUTICAL COMPOSITIONS FOR COMBINATION ANTIVIRAL THERAPY”. It is the national phase of PCT/US2004/000832 filed on 13 January 2004 and claiming priority from a couple of US provisional applications filed on 14 January 2003. On allowance the Application published for opposition purposes and Teva filed an opposition on 26 March 2009 and four months later submitted a detailed statement of case. On 1 February 2010, the Applicant requested permission to correct the application, and on 21 April 2010, Teva requested that the proposed amendments to the claims be refused. There was an intermediate ruling on this by the Commissioner on 22 June 2010, and on 27 June 2010 Teva withdrew their challenge to the amendments and the opposition continued with the amended claim-set. On 8 May 2011, the Opposer submitted an amended statement of case and Gilad submitted their response on 1 January 2012. On 23 September 2012, the Opposer’s evidence was submitted in the form of two affidavits, by Professor Richard Novak and by Professor Joseph Fortunak. On 24 July 2013, Gilad submitted their response in the form of Affidavits by Professor Robert Redfield and Professor G Stahly, and on 10 April 2014 further affidavits were submitted in response to points raised. Read the rest of this entry »


Unipharm Requests Accelerated Examination of Pending Novartis Patent Application

May 7, 2017

novartisIsrael Patent Application No. 249922 is a divisional application of 205208 that was filed on 3 January 2017, and which claims priority from USSN 60/985,668 filed on 6 November 2007. Under Section 16, the filing of the divisional application was published on 29 February 2017.

The ‘922 application relates to “DUAL-ACTING PHARMACEUTICAL COMPOSITIONS BASED ON SUPERSTRUCTURES OF ANGIOTENSIN RECEPTOR ANTAGONIST/BLOCKER (ARB) AND NEUTRAL ENDOPEPTIDASE (NEP) INHIBITOR”.

On 4 January 2017, the Applicant received a Notice Prior to Examination under Section 18 and regulation 36. Examination has not started.

UnipharmUnipharm requested that the examination of the Application be accelerated under Section 19a of the Israel Patent Law. The request was supported by an Affidavit from Mr Zevulun Tomer, Unipharm’s CEO:

I affirm that if IL 249922 to Novartis AG is examined in due course, it will cause a delay in Unipharm’s development of a product that is a high priority. … Making the Examination special will prevent delays and costs and serves the public interest by making drugs more available at lower cost and by opening the market to competition.

EntrestoOn 2 April 2017, Novartis AG opposed the request. Their position was that the request was vague and did not fulfill the conditions of Section 19a(c). Novartis notes that Unipharm did not provide details regarding which drug they intended developing, and if their intent was to develop a generic version of ENTRESTO, Novartis noted that that product was protected by other patents, some of which were pending patent extensions, and so accelerating the examination of ‘922 would not have the allegedly desired consequences.

Novartis also noted that if an Opposition is eventually submitted against IL 205208 under Section 26 of the Israel Patent Law which published for opposition purposes on 31 January 2017, anyway under Commissioner Circulars 035/2017 and 020/2012, no extensions in the Examination of the ‘922 application would be allowed.  The Commissioner noted that on 23 April 2017, the period for submitting an Opposition was still open, so there was no need for him to address this theoretical issue. In response to Novartis’s counter-statement, Unpiharm reiterated their claims.

Section 19a(c) provides the situations where a third-party can request acceleration of a pending application to another:

(c) A person other than the applicant, and who is not associated with the applicant or works on his behalf, may submit to the Commissioner a detailed request along with an affidavit supporting the facts, for an accelerated examination of an application that was published under section 16A, if one of the following occurs: (1) There is an established concern that the examination of the application of the patent according to the set order may cause the applicant of an accelerated examination application, who works in the field of the invention, a delay in the development or in the production of a product or a process claimed in the patent application under this subsection. (2) Time elapsed since the submission of the request is unreasonably long under section 15 or from the day the request entered the national stage under section 48D, and taking into consideration any significantly lengthy time since the lapsed date up to the beginning of the examination of other application of the same type. (3) Public interest; (4) Extenuating circumstances which provide justification.

As established re Israel Patent Application 221842 J. L. Glatt Lift ltd, 14 June 2016: 

 The possibility of accelerating examination under Section 19a is an exception to the general rule regarding examination that is given in Section 9 and regulation 34:

Applying the exception is likely to damage the principle of the first to file is to be awarded the patent and is likely to damage the general quality of patent examinations. For example, prior art that is not yet examined could be overlooked.

It is clear that accelerating examination under Section 19a is reserved for extreme cases where it is justified to deviate from the normal order. The burden of proof is on the Applicant for  Accelerated Examination who is to detail his request and support it with evidence.

Unipharm’s request and Mr Tomer’s affidavit relate in general to Section 19a(c) but it appears that they intend part (1) which relates to ‘delays in developing or manufacturing a product’ that Unipharm intends to manufacture, and to part (3) that relates to the ‘public good’ that is served by greater accessibility to drugs, reduced costs and competition in the market.

Unipharm claims that under their work program, if a patent issues for the ‘922 application, this will prevent them developing and then manufacturing their product.  Unipharm’s affidavit details the managerial program and preferences. The Commissioner Asa Kling does not see any reason not to accept an Affidavit from a CEO who may be presumed to know the company’s plans. There is no need to cross-examine under Section 163a of the Israel Patent Law 1967, and if it should transpire that Unipharm have lied, this Affidavit could be used against them. Therefore, it seems that Unipharm have provided the appropriate support for their request as required by Section 19a(c)(1) of the Law for accelerated examination.

This is not the case with respect to ‘public interest’ under Section 19a(c)(3) of the Law. As explained in the Glat Lift case, accelerated examination under Section 10 is reserved for extraordinary cases that are important to the State of Israel in general. The Application and Affidavit do not point to such a specific condition. It does not explain how accelerated examination will result in competition that will bring about a drop in prices. As Novartis noted, it doesn’t even explain which market sector will have enhanced access. The Section 19a(c)(3) justification is rejected.

However, due to the Section 19a(c)(1) justification, examination of pending application 249922 will be expedited on payment of the relevant fee. Suspension or extensions will be permitted only in accordance with Section 19(a)(1) of the Law. No costs are awarded.

COMMENT

In this instance, as we are dealing with a divisional application, there is no danger of earlier filed not published art being missed due to the patent being examined out of turn. The Commissioner Circulars 035/2017 and 020/2012 explain Patent Office policy to examine divisional applications of opposed applications as fast as possible. There is a real danger that applicants for pharmaceuticals that are opposed will file continuations and divisionals to keep the patent application alive in an attempt to evergreen. So on balance, it seems that the request is reasonable and the Commissioner was right to grant it. If Novartis are acting in good faith, they should be interested in having their patent application examined as fast as possible. They have not provided a justification for delaying, such as wanting to wait for examination of a corresponding application to be concluded so that they can request allowance under Section 17c or similar.

With a justification under Section 19a(c)(1) it does not matter that the Section 19a(c)(3) request was denied. However, I don’t fully understand the Commissioner’s reasoning. If he considers that one has to be facing a drug shortage within an epidemic, that is one thing. However, I don’t think that one should have to explain how allowing generic competition lowers drug prices for the common good. This is self-evident and true for all drugs, and the underlying logic of free markets and really dates back to Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations. Still, the Law does seem to require something extraordinary.

We note that Unipharm successfully handled this request themselves, without professional representation. This is not the first time that Unipharm have successfully fought inter-partes proceedings at the Israel Patent Office without using an attorney. Nevertheless, others are strongly advised not to follow their example.