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Thursday, 29 March 2018

Denmark - Gilead successfully enforces its SPC for Truvada

Last year, the SPC Blog reported (here) the decision of the Danish Maritime and Commercial High Court not to grant a preliminary injunction against Accord Healthcare Limited on the basis of Gilead's SPC for the combination of tenofovir disoproxil (as fumarate) and emtricitabine.

On 7 March 2018, the Eastern High Court in Denmark overturned this decision and granted the preliminary injunction against Accord.

Mikkel Vittrup and Jeppe Brinck-Jensen at Plesner (who assisted Gilead in this case) have kindly provided the summary below of the Eastern High Court's decision.
The Eastern High Court (the court of appeal) in Denmark has granted a preliminary injunction against Accord Healthcare Limited on the basis of Gilead's Danish SPC for TRUVADA®, overturning the first instance decision of the Maritime and Commercial High Court. The Eastern High Court did not accept that Accord had proven that Gilead's SPC was invalid. Furthermore, it found that the SPC was infringed even though the title of the SPC mentioned a specific salt of the active ingredient tenofovir disoproxil, and Accord's product was not sold as such a salt.  
In relation to validity of the SPC, the question was whether the active ingredient emtricitabine was specified in the wording of claim 27 of the basic patent by the wording "other therapeutic ingredients", for the purposes of Article 3(a) of the SPC Regulation. Gilead's SPC is for the combination of active ingredients tenofovir disoproxil and emtricitabine, and it was not in dispute that tenofovir disoproxil is explicitly named in the claims of the basic patent. 
Accord argued that claim 27 did not relate implicitly, but necessarily and specifically, to the combination of tenofovir disoproxil and emtricitabine, and therefore that the SPC did not meet the requirements of Article 3(a) as interpreted by the CJEU in Eli Lilly (Case C-493/12). At first instance, the Maritime and Commercial High Court agreed with Accord.  
The Eastern High Court did not agree.  
It stated, referring to the Protocol on the Interpretation of Article 69 EPC and the Eli Lilly decision, that the claims of the basic patent - including in relation to the question of which active ingredients are covered by the claims - should be interpreted in the light of the common general knowledge of the skilled person. 
The Eastern High Court referred to a declaration and oral testimony of Gilead's expert (a Danish HIV clinician) and found that the skilled person at the priority date of the basic patent (July 1996) would have understood "other therapeutic ingredients" as compounds contributing to antiviral activity, including in particular for the treatment of HIV, and therefore that the skilled person would think of a combination of tenofovir disoproxil with another NRTI, a NNRTI or a protease inhibitor. The Eastern High Court concluded that the term "other therapeutic ingredients" in claim 27 only concerned a limited number of compounds.  
Consequently, the Eastern High Court found that it could not be rejected with the sufficient degree of certainty that claim 27 implicitly, but necessarily and specifically also related to emtricitabine. 
The Eastern High Court also gave weight to the existing doubt as to the interpretation of Article 3(a), in particular in view of the pending referral to the CJEU (Case C-121/17).
The Eastern High Court's decision - overturning the first instance decision from the Maritime and Commercial High Court - also confirms the well-established Danish case law according to which a preliminary injunction will rarely be rejected on the basis of alleged invalidity of the asserted IP rights.  
In relation to infringement, the High Court concluded that Gilead had rendered it probable that the fumaric acid salt and the free base of tenofovir disoproxil should be considered the same active ingredient within the meaning of the SPC Regulation. Consequently, Gilead's SPC was infringed by a combination product containing the free base of tenofovir disoproxil, even though the title of the SPC mentioned tenofovir disoproxil as a fumaric acid salt. 

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