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

Monday, 12 December 2011

After Medeva: what the commentators say ...

With regard to patent extension as in most other areas, we depend on the 
commentators to tell us what they see as happening from their vantage points
Following last week's ruling of the Court of Justice of the European Union in Case C-322/10 Medeva, The SPC Blog has received comments and opinions from so many people -- readers and others -- that it has been difficult to sift through them all.  The blog records below some of the first impressions of those who work in the field:
"The confirmation of the Attorney General’s opinion that a “mis-match” between an SPC and an MA is not fatal to that SPC application is welcome to the research-based pharmaceutical industry. However, every issue relating to the SPC protection of combination products has by no means been resolved. Also, many in the pharmaceutical industry will be disappointed that the CJEU has not adopted the infringement test argued for by Medeva and the UK Government" (Tim Powell: Powell Gilbert LLP)
"This decision has far-reaching consequences. It means that innovative pharmaceutical companies can benefit from SPCs for their patents also if the relevant MA was granted for a combination product that is only partly disclosed by the patent relied on. For countries where the disclosure test was applied (such as the Netherlands) the possibility to obtain SPCs has been broadened. It also means that SPCs cannot be granted for active ingredients A + B, if the MA is in place for A + B and the wording of the claims of the patent only specify A. This means a limitation of the granting practice in countries where the infringement test was used (where SPCs for A + B were granted). 
Following the CJ decision, this has already led to the Court of Rome ruling (on 25 November) that Novartis cannot invoke its (Italian) SPC granted for a combination product that was not fully disclosed by its patent [noted by The SPC Blog here]. Several issues regarding both the application for SPCs and the protection granted by a valid SPC remain unresolved and are the subject of several other referrals to the CJ regarding the interpretation of the SPC Regulation. Medeva does provide possibilities for the pharmaceutical industry and companies should currently apply for SPCs as long as one of the active ingredients of the relevant MA is specified in the wording of the claims of the patent" (Gertjan Kuipers and Tjibbe Douma: De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek).
“The CJEU rulings are welcome and have confirmed a relatively broad scope of SPC protection covering all combinations of a particular active ingredient with others, providing that the active ingredient is supported by the underlying patent. 
This is, perhaps, not as narrow a view of SPC protection as it was feared the Court of Justice might support. They have also expressed the legal position succinctly - the circumstances where you cannot obtain an SPC are now clearer. 
In essence, the CJEU has confirmed that it should not be possible to obtain SPC protection claiming active ingredients that owe nothing to the disclosure in the underlying patent. They have also avoided imposing the harsh result predicted by UK judges in previous cases such as Gilead” (Will James: Marks & Clerk Solicitors).
"Although these decisions bring some much needed clarity to the application of the SPC regulations to combination drugs, we foresee several issues that remain unclear, particularly the meaning of “specified in the wording of the claims” in relation to Article 3(a). A brief review of the French, German and Spanish versions of the current decisions does not seem to remove the ambiguity, although they possibly lean towards a more restrictive approach than that implied by the English-language decisions" (Hugh Goodfellow and Daniel Wise, Carpmaels & Ransford).
"The Medeva decision makes it clear that SPCs on combination products do not need to mirror the exact combination that is the subject of the marketing authorisation. Instead a patentee must match its SPC product to the active ingredients ‘specified’ in its patent. That SPC can then be enforced, it would seem, against any medicinal product containing (rather than matching) the active(s) the subject of the SPC. 
However, as ever, further questions are raised. What is meant by “specified”: do claims for classes of products and Markush formulae “specify” the individual actives they cover? Where does this leave biologic patents that claim, for example, antibodies to a particular antigen without disclosing the antibody? Is it really the intention that a patent can only ever have one SPC or is the CJEU’s decision limited to the single active A/combination A+B scenario? Has the CJEU stated that a single active SPC can be enforced against a combination? The wording of the CJEU decision is not clear. 
This is sadly another decision that raises as many important questions as it answers" (Marjan Noor and Andrew Hutchinson, Simmons & Simmons LLP).
"In the quest for minimizing an alleged extension of protection for combination products, the CJEU has now come up with an answer which is primarily economically beneficial to the authorities charging applicants official fees for long specifications, and in reality confers a broader protection than would have been possible if using the infringement test to define the product, which may not be in the public interest.

On a constructive approach to the new legal situation, the best advice looking forward is for patent drafters to develop standard lists of all known active ingredients (approved or in the pipeline) in order to keep all options open for including combinations in the patent claims either in divisional applications, when time allows for that, or by limiting the patent using the central limitation procedure at the EPO" (Sidsel Hauge: Awapatent)


Anonymous said...

C-6/11 also available.
As for the comment "Is it really the intention that a patent can only ever have one SPC or is the CJEU’s decision limited to the single active A/combination A+B scenario?", I think if it were the case, ECJ wouldn't have answered the C-6/11 on 3 a), but rather on 3 c). By answering on 3 a), it seems to me that, in principle, where a patent protects more than one product, more than one SPC can be granted, but no more than one SPC/product...However, in C-6/11, the product A+B was not protected in the meaning of 3a, so, unlike for A, no further SPC could be granted for this patent.

Anonymous said...

WRT one SPC per patent, since the Court refers back to its previous decision in Biogen, which had nothing to do with combinations, there's no reason now to see a limitation to the single active A/combination A+B scenario.