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, 4 May 2012
To recap for new readers of The SPC Blog, Medeva had filed five SPC applications. Three related to vaccines against five diseases (diphtheria, tetanus, meningitis, polio and whooping cough), while the other two omitted the vaccine against meningitis (Hib). The UK IPO's hearing officer rejected all five applications. In the case of four of them, the active ingredients included some which were not protected by Medeva's patent (ie the vaccines against diseases other than whooping cough); as to the fifth, while the active ingredients were limited to those protected by Medeva's patent, the market authorisation covered a combination vaccine which included vaccines against the other four diseases. Thus in all five there was a mismatch between the active ingredients protected by the patent and the active ingredients in the vaccine or medicinal product for which the relevant market authorisations had been given.
Medeva appealed unsuccessfully to the Patents Court and then again to the Court of Appeal, which stayed the proceedings and referred a number of questions concerning art.3(a) of the SPC Regulation to the CJEU for a preliminary ruling. In its ruling, the CJEU held that art.3(a) had to be interpreted as precluding the competent industrial property office of a Member State from granting an SPC relating to active ingredients which were not specified in the wording of the claims of the basic patent relied on in support of the application for such a certificate.
Medeva put quite a positive spin on this ruling. The way they saw it, the CJEU's explanation of the law still entitled them to the grant of SPCs on the first four of their applications -- or, if this was not so, that the EU's senior court had insufficiently answered the questions referred , so that another reference was needed.
The Court of Appeal dismissed Medeva's further arguments and, with it, the appeal. It held that, since both the Advocate General and the CJEU had rejected any test based on infringement or on the protective effect of the basic patent, all that was left for the national court to do was to determine which active ingredients were specified in the wording of the patent's claims. In this context, "specified" is an interesting word: it could mean anything between expressly naming, actually describing, effectively implying something, or this could be the result of a reasonable construction of the claims. Medeva's problem was that, wherever the dividing line was to be drawn, the active ingredients relating to vaccines against diphtheria, tetanus, meningitis and polio were excluded, while the CJEU's ruling required that the other elements or active ingredients be specified in the wording of the claims. Here was no such wording to indicate that the active ingredients of the vaccines against diphtheria, tetanus, meningitis and polio were included.