The SPC blog

A niche blog dedicated to the issues that arise when supplementary protection certificates (SPCs) extend patents beyond their normal life -- and to the respective positions of patent owners, investors, competitors and consumers. The blog also addresses wider issues that may be of interest or use to those involved in the extension of patent rights. You can email The SPC Blog here

Friday, 8 December 2017

It's the end of the procedure for the end of procedure argument...


Fot those of you who love an "end of procedure notice" discussion, then this one is for you.  The decision in C-567-16 is now out, and the link is here

The spoiler is that an end of procedure notice is not equivalent to a marketing authorisation - see the answers from the CJEU below.  


1.      Article 3(b) of Regulation (EC) No 469/2009 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 6 May 2009 concerning the supplementary protection certificate for medicinal products is to be interpreted as meaning that an end of procedure notice issued by the reference Member State in accordance with Article 28(4) of Directive 2001/83/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 6 November 2001 on the Community code relating to medicinal products for human use, as amended, as regards pharmacovigilance, by Directive 2010/84/EU of the European Parliament and the Council of 15 December 2010, before the expiry of the basic patent, as defined in Article 1(c) of Regulation No 469/2009, may not be treated as equivalent to a marketing authorisation within the meaning of Article 3(b) of that regulation, with the result that a supplementary protection certificate may not be obtained on the basis of such a notice.

2.      Article 10(3) of Regulation No 469/2009 is to be interpreted as meaning that the fact that no marketing authorisation has been granted by the Member State concerned at the time the supplementary protection certificate application is lodged in that Member State does not constitute an irregularity that can be cured under that provision



Saturday, 11 November 2017

Is there a future for medical devices? - an article

Many thanks to Nicholas Fischer and Andrew Hutchinson (Simmons & Simmons) for sharing their article (here) on SPCs for medical devices which was recently published in Bio-Science Law Review.  A summary of the article is set out below:
Supplementary Protection Certificates (SPCs) have on occasion been sought for medical devices, forcing granting authorities and courts across Europe to consider the question: are medical devices included within the scope of the SPC system? These cases have produced inconsistent outcomes. The European Commission's study into the SPC system and the new EU medical device regulations bring into the spotlight the scope of the SPC system and the regulatory regime relating to medical devices.  
This article reviews UK and European cases on the ability of the SPC system to be applied to medical devices and considers the main issues faced by such applications. It also considers whether now might be the time to introduce a new system for 'medical device SPCs'.


Thursday, 9 November 2017

A new CJEU referral on claims with functional features

Last week, the 14th Senate of the German Federal Patent Court referred new questions to the CJEU on the criteria for Article 3(a) of Regulation (EC) No. 469/2009 (decision 14 W (pat) 12/17) in an attempt to clarify when a functional definition in a claim refers implicitly, but necessarily and specifically to the product in question, as stipulated by the CJEU in Eli Lilly (C-493/12).

Dirk B├╝hler (Maiwald), who acted for the patentee Royalty Pharma, has kindly provided a copy of the decision (here), an English translation of the decision (here) and a summary of the case (see below the questions).  For those who just want to read the questions, they are reproduced directly below:
1. Is a product protected by a basic patent in force according to Article 3 (a) of Regulation (EC) No 469/2009 only if it belongs to the protected subject-matter as defined by the claims and is thus provided to the person skilled in the art as a specific embodiment? 
2. Is it therefore not sufficient for the requirements of Article 3 (a) of Regulation (EC) No 469/2009 that the product in question meets the general functional definition of an active substance class as mentioned in the claims, but apart from that is not individualized as a specific embodiment of the teaching protected by the basic patent?
3. Is a product not protected according by Article 3 (a) of Regulation (EC) No 469/2009 by a basic patent in force if it is covered by the functional definition contained in the claims, but was developed only after the filing date of the basic patent based on independent inventive activity?
Summary 
Background 
It seems fair to say that Medeva (C-322/10) and its progenies have rather complicated than clarified as to when a product is protected by a basic patent in accordance with Article 3 (a) of the Regulation (see e.g. latest referral of Judge Arnold ([2017] EWHC 13 (pat)).
Even though it is clear in view of the numerous decisions by the CJEU since Medeva that Article 3(a) precludes SPCs for products which would infringe the patent despite not being referred to in the claims at all, e.g. for the presence of the term “comprising, there has been a debate as to how specifically the product must be disclosed in individualized form in the claims. 
For claims with functional definitions this debate has focused on whether the requirement set by Eli Lilly that such claims must refer implicitly, but necessarily and specifically to the product allows for SPCs in situations where the product is not disclosed as an individualized embodiment. Whilst this position has been endorsed by the UK courts for generic antibody claims ([2014] EWHC 2404 (Pat)) and claims with Markush formulas ([2017] EWHC 987 (Pat)), patent offices in other jurisdictions have taken a more restrictive standpoint and interpret Eli Lilly to require an individualized disclosure of the specific compound at least in the specification or to refer to antibodies only.
The referred case
The claims of the basic patent EP 1 084 705 B1 are concerned with the treatment of Diabetes mellitus by administration of DPIV-inhibitors and are based on the inventors’ recognition that inhibition of the enzyme DPIV generally allows for lowering of blood glucose levels by preserving the endogenous incretin hormones. The patent discloses individual DPIV inhibitors and points out that other DPIV inhibitors may be used as well. The general nature of the invention has been recognized by the German Federal Court of Justice in its decision on the German patent DE 196 16 486  based on the priority filing which belongs to the leading case on enablement in Germany (BGH X ZB 8/12 – Dipeptidyl-Peptidase-Inhibitoren).
DPIV-inhibitors marketed for treatment of Diabetes mellitus include sitagliptin which is not disclosed individually in the basic patent and has been developed by a licensee of the patent. Sitagliptin is also protected by a later filed composition of matter patent. The situation is thus comparable with Eli Lilly where the claims were directed to the genus of Neutrokine-alpha antibodies, but the product in question, tabalumab which is a Neutrokine-alpha antibody, was not individually disclosed in the claims or the specification and had been developed after the filing date of the basic patents.
An SPC application for sitagliptin was rejected by the German Patent and Trademark Office because sitagliptin would not be disclosed individually in the patent. The rejection was appealed.
In its referring decision the Senate acknowledges that sitagliptin is a DPIV-inhibitor as demonstrated by the assessment report of the EMA and would thus be within the extent of protection conferred by Article 69 EPC. However, according to the Senate’s interpretation of Medeva and Eli Lilly it would not be sufficient for the purpose of Article 3 (a) that the product in question, namely sitagliptin, falls within the extent of protection (Schutzbereich )conferred by the claims. It would rather be required that the product is disclosed specifically enough to form the subject matter (Schutzgegenstand) of the claims which in the absence of an individualized disclosure of sitagliptin in the basic patent would not be the case. 
The Senate however acknowledges that a different position has been taken by e.g. UK courts on highly comparable case scenarios (see [2017] EWHC 987 (Pat) in view of Medeva and Eli Lilly. This divergent interpretation of the CJEU’s case law by the national courts and patent offices would not be acceptable to applicants and run counter to the overall objective of the Regulation, namely to provide a uniform solution for the common market. 
The Senate has therefore decided to stay the appeal proceedings and to refer the following questions:
1. Is a product protected by a basic patent in force according to Article 3 (a) of Regulation (EC) No 469/2009 only if it belongs to the protected subject-matter as defined by the claims and is thus provided to the person skilled in the art as a specific embodiment?
2. Is it therefore not sufficient for the requirements of Article 3 (a) of Regulation (EC) No 469/2009 that the product in question meets the general functional definition of an active substance class as mentioned in the claims, but apart from that is not individualized as a specific embodiment of the teaching protected by the basic patent?
3. Is a product not protected according by Article 3 (a) of Regulation (EC) No 469/2009 by a basic patent in force if it is covered by the functional definition contained in the claims, but was developed only after the filing date of the basic patent based on independent inventive activity?
Thanks Dirk!

Friday, 3 November 2017

New CJEU referral - C527/17 - Does Regulation (EC) No. 469/2009 apply to CE-marked drug/device combinations?

The 14th Senate of the German Federal Patent Court has referred the controversial question of whether Regulation (EC) No. 469/2009 applies to CE-marked drug/device combinations to the CJEU for further clarification (decision 14 W (pat) 13/16). A copy of the decision can be found here. The case is now pending before the CJEU with case number C-527/17.  Markus Coehn (Peterreins Schley), who acted for the applicant, has kindly provided the following background and summary of the case:
Background:
There is largely agreement that Regulation (EC) No. 469/2009 does not apply to medical devices. Besides the formal aspect that CE-marked medical devices are not authorized according to Directive 2001/83/EC, the regulatory hurdle for obtaining a CE-mark is generally considered as too low to justify compensation of the patent term. At the same time, there is also agreement that the Regulation (EC) No. 469/2009 should be applicable to all types of pharmaceutical research without discrimination. This legislative goal is expressly stated in the Proposal for a Council Regulation (EEC) concerning the creation of a supplementary protection certificate for medicinal products, COM(90) 101 final-SYN 225, margin number 25. 
These two positions clash in cases of drug/device combinations, in particular drug/device combinations in which the drug is incorporated in the medical device and provides an ancillary (i.e. supporting) effect. Such drug/device combinations can only be authorized by a notified body according to the CE-marking procedure (Directive 93/42/EEC) but not by a regulatory authority for medical products (according to Directive 2001/83/EC). Nevertheless, regulatory authorities are involved in the CE-marking procedure by means of the so-called consultation process: prior to approval, the notified body asks a regulatory authority for medical products to assess the quality, safety and usefulness of the drug component. The regulatory authority then carries out the assessment according to the standards of Directive 2001/83/EC. On basis of this advice, the notified body then issues or denies the CE-mark. Preparing for and conducting the consultation process can be lengthy and time-consuming, in particular since the regulatory authorities often require evidence on basis of clinical trials to demonstrate quality, safety and usefulness of the drug component. Thus, the main reason for granting SPCs – loss of commercially exploitable patent term due to long regulatory approval procedures according to directive 2001/83/EC – equally applies at least to some drug/device combinations. 
 The present situation is best exemplified with the following example: Consider a new and innovative drug that has to be administered as an integral part of a medical device. The EU legislator only allows authorizing of the drug/device combination according to the CE-marking procedure. Since the drug is new, the regulatory authority involved in the consultation process requires the manufacturer to carry out substantial clinical trials to be done in compliance with Directive 2001/83/EC. Is such a manufacturer entitled to a SPC? If not: Is this not a discrimination of a pharmaceutical research to deny a SPC, contrary to the legislator’s intentions?
There is presently no common ground between the courts of the EU member states on how to resolve this issue. The referral to the CJEU will hopefully provide much-needed further clarification.
The referred case:
The referral concerns a German SPC application on basis of European Patent EP 0 681 475 B1 relating to the 2nd medical use of the anti-proliferative paclitaxel for the treatment of restenosis. Restenosis is a common side-effect of angioplasty, a minimally invasive procedure in which blood vessel are dilated to remove a stenosis. Paclitaxel as such was already authorized as a cancer drug by the EMA (EMEA/H/C/000216) on July 19th 1999. For this reason, the SPC request was limited to paclitaxel for the local administration to dilated blood vessels for the prevention or treatment of restenosis, i.e. limited to a different purpose in the sense of the Neurim decision (C-130/11). 
The SPC request was based on a CE-mark authorizing a stent which incorporated paclitaxel as an integral part. The manufacturer indicated in the CE-marking procedure that paclitaxel is incorporated into the stent to prevent and treat restenosis. The regulatory authority advising the notified body in the consultation process required that the usefulness of paclitaxel for treating restenosis is established on basis of a clinical risk/benefit analysis, i.e. on basis of clinical trials establishing therapeutic efficacy for treating restenosis in comparison to placebo (stent only). After a positive advice from the regulatory authority, the notified body issued the CE-mark in 2003.
The SPC application was rejected by the German Patent and Trademark Office on Feb. 19th, 2016. An appeal was lodged against the decision. The appeal is pending before the 14th Senate of the Federal Patent Court and stayed until the CJEU has rendered its decision.
The referring decision:
The English translation of the referred question reads as follows:
 “Is Art. 2 of the Regulation (EC) No. 469/2009 of the European Parliament and the Council dated May 6th, 2009, concerning the supplementary protection certificate for medicinal products to be interpreted such that an authorization according to Directive 93/42/EEC for a drug-device-combination in the sense of Art. 1(4) of Directive 93/42/EEC has to be considered as equivalent to an marketing authorization according to Directive 2001/83/EC, if the drug component, in the course of the approval procedure according to Annex I, Section 7.4, Paragraph 1 of the Directive 93/42/EEC, was scrutinized for quality, safety and usefulness according to Directive 2001/83/EC by an authority for a medicinal product of an EU member state?”
In the Reasons of the decision, the Federal Patent Court discusses two main aspects, namely whether an authorization according to Directive 93/42/EEC can be considered as equivalent to an authorization according to Directive 2001/83/EC and whether an authorization according to Directive 93/42/EEC can be considered as an administrative authorization procedure. 
Turning to the first aspect, the Court notes that an analogy may be seen to the CJEU’s decisions Synthon (C-159/09), Generics (UK) (C-427/09), Hogan Lovells (C-229/09), and Sumitomo Chemical (C-210/12) in which the CJEU considered authorizations not explicitly mentioned in Art. 2 of Regulation (EC) No. 469/2009. In these cases, the question of whether the drug/plant protection product was subject to (equivalent) safety and efficacy testing during the authorization procedure was decisive in determining whether or not such authorizations fall into the ambit of the SPC regulations. The Court concludes that, in the present case, the drug component underwent testing of safety and efficacy/usefulness that was equivalent to the requirements of Directive 2001/83/EC.
 
Turning to the second aspect, the Court considers that notified bodies are not authorities, but notes that notified bodies are vested with public authority. Furthermore, the Court notes that the notified body has to duly consider the advice of the regulatory authority in the consultation process with the effect that the notified body is barred from issuing a CE-mark in case of a negative advice from the regulatory authority. Thus, the CE-marking process has, in this case, the same obligatory character as an administrative procedure.
Taking these two aspects and the legislative aim of Regulation (EC) No. 469/2009 into account, the Court recommends considering an authorization according to Directive 93/42/EEC for a drug-device-combination as being equivalent to a marketing authorization according to Directive 2001/83/EC for the purposes of Art. 2 of Regulation (EC) No. 469/2009.
Many thanks Markus!

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

EU Commission consultation on SPCs and pharmaceutical research exemptions

The EU commission has announced a consultation (available here) on improvements to the SPC system.  Possible improvements could include the creation of a European SPC title, the introduction of an SPC manufacturing waiver and an update on the scope of EU patent research exemptions.

Responses to the consultation must be submitted via an online questionnaire (available here).  The deadline for filing submissions is 4 January 2018.

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Swedish Patent and Registration Office appeals to the Swedish Supreme Court on the correction of SPC terms

As previously reported on this blog (here), the Swedish Patent and Market Court of Appeal (PMCA) found that SPCs granted pre-Seattle could be corrected to have the duration calculated based on the notification date rather than the decision date, if applicable. The PMCA found that the Regulation 469/2009 itself did not provide for any legal remedies to correct the term (i.e. Article 17.2 of 1610/96 is not applicable), but that correction could be made under general principles of Swedish national administrative law.

This decision has now been appealed to the Supreme Court by the Swedish Patent and Registration Office. The questions discussed in the appeal relate only to Swedish administrative law and not to the Regulation or other EU law.

The Supreme Court must grant leave to appeal in order to hear the case on the merits. If they do, it will be most interesting to see how they deal with the pending referral in C-492/16 (Incyte).

Many thanks to Hampus Rystedt at Zacco for providing these new developments.

Thursday, 26 October 2017

Tenofovir in Denmark - Accord Healthcare fends off Gilead's motion for a preliminary injunction

Nicolaj Lindgreen and Nicolaj Bording at Kromann Reumert report the following news on Gilead's SPC for the combination of tenofovir and emtricitabine in Denmark:
On 26 October 2017, the Danish Maritime and Commercial High Court issued a ground-breaking decision rejecting Gilead's motion for preliminary injunction against Accord Healthcare Limited based on Gilead's Danish SPC for the combination of tenofovir disoproxil (as fumarate) and emtricitabine. 
Accord had defended the motion for preliminary injunction by arguing non-infringement and invalidity of the asserted SPC.  
The Court supported Accord's argument that the SPC's combination of tenofovir disoproxil (as fumarate) and emtricitabine was not protected by the basic patent, and, accordingly, the SPC had been granted in contrary to Article 3(a) of the SPC Regulation.
The only claim in the basic patent that concerns the potential combination of tenofovir with another compound is claim 27, which claims an optional combination of tenofovir with "other therapeutic ingredients".  
Gilead had argued that the skilled person would understand the words "other therapeutic ingredients" in claim 27 as referring to emtricitabine. Hence, according to Gilead, the combination of tenofovir disoproxil (as fumarate) and emtricitabine was covered by the basic patent.  
Accord had argued, in particular, that case law from the CJEU dating from after the grant of the SPC makes it clear that a "product" according to the SPC Regulation has to be specified in the claims, either by reference to the compound's name, its chemical structure or by a functional definition, provided that the functional definition necessarily and specifically relates to the compound in question. Clearly, Accord argued, the words "other therapeutic ingredients" in claim 27 did not specify emtricitabine, neither by name/chemical structure nor by a functional definition, as the words "other therapeutic ingredients" say nothing about the specific function or nature of such "other therapeutic ingredients".  
As indicated, the Court agreed with Accord's invalidity arguments stating that Accord, on this basis, had "proved that the certificate-in-suit is invalid". Hence, the motion was rejected. 
The decision is ground-breaking as this is only the second time in 40 years that a motion for preliminary injunction in the patent area is rejected with reference to invalidity of the asserted right. Normally, it is considered close to impossible to fend off a motion for a preliminary injunction in a patent-related case, if invalidity arguments are the only defence. 
In terms of infringement, the Court found that, had the SPC been valid, Accord's combination product was covered by the SPC. Accord had argued non-infringement referring to the fact that the SPC was granted for tenofovir disoproxil in its fumarate salt form in combination with emtricitabine, whereas Accord's product contained tenofovir disoproxil in its free base form. The Court concluded that Gilead's marketing authorisation on which the SPC had been granted, which did not specify the fumarate salt form of tenofovir, covered tenofovir in all its forms, and, accordingly, so did the SPC. 
Nicolaj Lindgreen and Nicolaj Bording acted for Accord Healthcare Limited.

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Tenofovir - the Swiss Bundespatentgericht goes for the infringement test

The SPC Blog is grateful to Siegfried Grimm at E. Blum & Co. for providing the following summary of a recent Tenofovir case in Switzerland:

The year is 2017 B.C. Europe is entirely governed by European Legislation. Well, not entirely... One small country of indomitable Swiss still holds out against the invaders. And life is not easy for the European judges who reside the fortified camps of Luxembourg ... 
In its decision of October 3, 2017 (here in German), the Swiss Federal Patent Court clarified what the criteria are for deciding “whether the product is protected by a basic patent in force”.  The Swiss court clearly refused to adopt the CJEU's “Medeva” line of decisions. As a consequence, Swiss SPCs will be assessed based on the infringement test.  No additional criteria, such as “specified in the wording of the claims” (Medeva), “the claims relate, implicitly but necessarily …” (Eli Lilly), “core inventive advance …” (Actavis) or the like are to be applied.  Accordingly, the Swiss court applied a more liberal approach compared to the CJEU, leaving room for Swiss SPCs where European SPCs are likely not available.  
The SPC in question relates to tenovofir disoproxil fumarate + emtricitabine.  Claim 1 of the basic patent covers tenovofir disoproxil fumarate and claim 27 mentions “optionally other active ingredients”, without mentioning of emtricitabine.  The Swiss court came to the conclusion that this SPC is protected by a basic patent in force and thus perfectly complies with Swiss practice.  The court also came to the conclusion, that the above CJEU decisions will not help deciding the case, as Eli Lilly might be in favor of such decision while Actavis would rule against it.  
The decision is open to appeal within 30 days. 
Interestingly, the same case is litigated before the High Court, [2017] EWHC 13 (Pat), now pending before the CJEU.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

"SPC Law and Practice 2017: you can’t keep a good blog down": now open for registration

Anyone working with SPCs must have a very special sort of understanding...
This year's seminar run by The SPC Blog, "SPC Law and Practice 2017: you can’t keep a good blog down” is now open for registration. After a year with our SPC feet up, the new referrals have reopened some issues and we’ll be taking the usual punchy look at the evolving case law and practice with speakers from private practice and the IPO.  This year we have a new venue, the CMS office at 78 Cannon Street, and the date of the seminar is the afternoon of Friday 1 December 2017.

The link to the invite is here!

The planned agenda (subject to some evolution..) is:

A review of the recent case law – Catherine Katzka (Kilburn and Strode)
“The IPO examiners” – practice and case law update from around Europe
Inventive advance – [speaker to be confirmed]
The Max Plank review of SPCs – Roberto Romandini (MPI)
Q&A

Further speakers to be confirmed in due course.

We will try to accommodate all comers, but if demand for places outstrips the supply it may be necessary to limit the number of people attending per law firm to give as many firms as possible a chance of attending.  Preference will be given to anyone from industry, since they are kind enough to provide the patents, the SPCs, the litigation and the competitive edge that makes the whole seminar possible.

Monday, 9 October 2017

Swedish Appeal Court opens towards re-examination of Swedish SPC terms

Many thanks to Louise Jonshammar (Awapatent) for providing the following summary of recent decisions of the Swedish Patent and Market Appeal Court on SPC terms following the CJEU's Seattle Genetics case:
"On 4 October, 2017, the Swedish Patent and Market Appeal Court handed down eight decisions in appeal cases regarding re-examination of SPC term decisions. 
The background relates to the famous Seattle Genetics case (C-471/14) in which the CJEU gave a preliminary ruling on the interpretation of Article 13(1) of Regulation (EC) No 469/2009 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 6 May 2009 concerning the supplementary protection certificate for medicinal products. In the judgement, the CJEU held that the ‘date of the first authorisation to place the product on the market in the [European Union]’ within the meaning of Article 13(1) is the date on which notification of the decision granting marketing authorisation was given to the addressee of the decision. As many patent offices around the EU, if not most, calculated the SPC term on the date of grant of the marketing authorisation, the judgement started an avalanche of requests for changes to the already issued SPCs. The different EU countries have handled these requests differently, as re-examination is not provided for in the regulation. 
The Swedish Patent and Registration Office refused to change the term of already issued SPCs unless there was still time within the two months’ appeal limit to appeal the grant decisions – in which case the patentee was urged to file such appeal. The reason for refusal was mainly that new practice is not a basis for re-examination under the Swedish Administrative Law. 
The Patent and Market Court agreed with the patent office and did not change the decisions. Further, the court said that decisions to grant SPC effect not only the applicant but also an unknown number of other actors on the market, having contradictory interests. Therefore, decisions on grant of SPCs shall be considered similar to civil actions, despite the fact that third parties are not parties to these decisions. 
The Patent and Market Appeal Court decisions are long and include a lot of very useful reasoning for understanding the decision. The grand finale of the decisions is a reasoning on the balance of interest between the patentee and third parties. The Patent and Market Appeal Court finds that where the patent protection has ceased and the SPC has come into effect, companies marketing generic drugs may have customised their efforts on the market to fit the decision and prepared according to the final date of the SPC in the decision. If the SPC term has begun, the interest of foreseeability speaks against a change of the SPC term in such cases. Before the beginning of the SPC term, however, the patentees’ interest in a longer term shall prevail. Therefore, as a general rule, decisions on SPC term shall be changed in accordance with the principles set out in the Seattle Genetics judgement, provided that a request for changes has been filed before the beginning of the SPC term. 
The decisions then differ depending on when the patentee filed its request - in some cases the term is extended and the patent office is asked to put that decision into practice, in other cases the request for change of the term is denied because the SPC term has already begun. 
Also, as a point of interest, one may note that the Patent and Market Appeal Court disagrees with the Patent and Market Court with respect to SPC applications being considered similar to civil actions. The fact that a re-examination may have economic consequences for third parties is not a special circumstance which motivates a deviation from the general rule of administrative law. The third party interest shall therefore be considered within the re-examination, which is then what the Patent and Market Appeal Court does in its balancing of interests, as described above. 
Another interesting note is that the Patent and Market Appeal Court has allowed for the decisions to be appealed to the Supreme Court."