Category: Patent Litigation
The Federal Circuit has now issued two decisions interpreting the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act of 2009 (BPCIA). In Amgen v. Sandoz, the first decision to interpret the BPCIA, the majority held that biosimilar makers could opt out of the first step of the BPCIA’s pre-litigation disclosures, the provision requiring biosimilar makers to provide the innovator company with their abbreviated Biologics License Application (aBLA) and other manufacturing information describing the processes used to make the proposed biosimilar. The court held that the innovator company could sue under the BPCIA in such circumstances and obtain the needed information in discovery. In its second decision, Amgen v. Apotex, the court further buttressed its reasoning as to why the first step of the BPCIA’s pre-litigation provisions was optional. Amgen now appeals a discovery ruling in its biosimilar litigation with Hospira holding that Amgen v. Sandoz does not require Hospira to produce manufacturing information for its proposed biosimilar of Amgen’s Epogen (epoetin alfa). Hospira moved to dismiss the appeal as premature. The Federal Circuit denied the motion and is allowing the appeal to proceed on the merits while at the same time requiring the parties to further address jurisdictional issues.
On August 30 FDA approved Sandoz Inc.’s biosimilar of Enbrel (etanercept), Amgen Inc.’s blockbuster biologic for treatment of moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis and a number of other autoimmune conditions. The biosimilar, Erelzi (etanercept-szzs), is the third biosimilar approved for marketing in the US under the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act of 2009 (BPCIA). Erelzi has been approved for all of Enbrel’s indications and is the first U.S. biosimilar of etanercept.
In July, the Federal Circuit decided Amgen v. Apotex, No. 2016-1308 (Fed, Cir. July 5, 2016), its second decision interpreting the U.S. biosimilar statute, the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation of Act of 2009 (BPCIA). The Federal Circuit affirmed the district court’s preliminary injunction barring Apotex from selling its proposed biosimilar until 180 days after post-licensure notice of first commercial marketing. The Federal Circuit held that 180 days’ notice was mandatory regardless of whether the biosimilar maker provided its regulatory application to the innovator as prescribed at the outset of the BPCIA procedures or not. The decision has impacted other district court litigation, including the Janssen v. Celltrion/Hospira and Amgen v. Hospira cases, since the biosimilar makers in those cases also argued that they did not need to provide 180 days’ notice of commercial marketing after being licensed by FDA.
In Rapid Litig. Mgmt. Ltd v. CellzDirect, Inc., the Federal Circuit reversed a ruling of patent invalidity under Section 101, reviving a biotech patent to a method of preserving hepatocytes, liver cells, for medical use. The Federal Circuit reversed the district court at both steps of the Supreme Court’s framework for patent eligibility set out in Mayo Collaborative Servs. v. Prometheus Labs., Inc., 132 S. Ct. 1289 (2012). In the wake of the Supreme Court’s recent denial of certiorari in Sequenom Inc., v. Ariosa Inc., where Sequenom sought guidance on the proper application of the Mayo two-step test, the Federal Circuit’s decision provides important guidance for how to determine patent eligibility for biotech inventions that build on natural discoveries. It also may help stem what many, including several Federal Circuit judges, have described as a crisis in medical innovation due to how courts and the Patent Office have applied Mayo.
Amgen and Hospira have fired off a dueling letters to the court in their litigation over Amgen's Epogen biosimilar, debating whether the U.S. biosimilar statute, the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act of 2009 (BPCIA), contains a private right of action. The letters come in the wake of the Federal Circuit’s Amgen v. Apotex decision, which held that the BPCIA’s 180-day notice of commercial marketing provision is mandatory and enforceable by an injunction.
Federal Circuit Decides Amgen v. Apotex, Holds that 180-Day Notice of Commercial Marketing is Always Mandatory in Biosimilar Litigation
Today, the Federal Circuit decided Amgen v. Apotex, No. 2016-1308 (Fed. Cir. July 5, 2016), its second decision interpreting the U.S. biosimilar statute, the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation of Act of 2009 (BPCIA). The Federal Circuit affirmed the district court’s preliminary injunction barring Apotex from selling its proposed biosimilar on the U.S. market during the 180-day post-approval notice of commercial marketing period. Writing for a unanimous panel that also included Judges Wallach and Bryson, Judge Taranto held that “the commercial marketing provision is mandatory and enforceable by injunction even for an applicant in Apotex’s position.”
Prominent among the first generation of U.S. biosimilar litigations under the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act (“BPCIA”) are the disputes between Amgen and Sandoz concerning Amgen’s related cancer drugs Neupogen (filgrastim) and Neulasta (pegfilgrastim).
Supreme Court Denies Sequenom’s Cert Petition, Leaving the Federal Circuit’s Interpretation of the Mayo/Alice Patent Eligibility Framework Intact For Now
The Supreme Court today denied Sequenom Inc.’s petition for writ of certiorari, in which Sequenom asked the Court to review a decision of the Federal Circuit invalidating its patent on a breakthrough prenatal diagnostic procedure. In denying the petition, the Court has declined to revisit the patent eligibility framework it set out in Mayo Collaborative Servs. v. Prometheus Labs. Inc., 132 S. Ct. 1289 (2012) and reaffirmed in Alice Corp. Pty. Ltd. v. CLS Bank International, 134 S. Ct. 2347 (2014).
In a consolidated litigation in the Southern District of Florida involving Apotex’s proposed biosimilars of Amgen’s Neupogen, an anti-infection drug for cancer patients, and of Amgen’s Neulasta, a long-acting version of Neupogen, Apotex participated in the pre-suit information exchanges of the BPCIA, agreed with Amgen as to what patents should be asserted in the BPCIA’s immediate litigation phase but then counterclaimed that Amgen engaged in sham litigation by bringing suit on one of the agreed patents. With trial to begin in July, Apotex recently stipulated to dismissal of its sham litigation counterclaims, leaving for another case the question of whether a biosimilar maker can both agree as to which patents to litigate in the immediate litigation phase and sustain a claim of sham litigation against the innovator for asserting agreed patents.
Full Federal Circuit Denies En Banc Review of Jurisdictional Decision with Important Implications for BPCIA Litigation
On June 20, 2016, the full Federal Circuit declined to rehear Acorda Therapeutics Inc. v. Mylan Pharms. Inc., 817 F.3d 755 (Fed. Cir. 2016) en banc. Acorda affirmed two District of Delaware decisions finding specific jurisdiction over Mylan Pharms., an out-of-state ANDA filer, based on its plans to sell its proposed generic drugs in Delaware. After the Supreme Court’s decision in Daimler AG v. Bauman, 134 S.Ct. 746 (2014), Mylan has argued that it could only be sued in its home state of West Virginia in ANDA cases since future sales of its proposed generic drugs could not confer specific jurisdiction in Delaware. The Federal Circuit disagreed. Under Acorda, plaintiffs in ANDA cases as well as in cases brought under the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act (BPCIA) can bring suit in their forum of choice based on future sales of proposed generic or biosimilar products so long as considerations of fairness, such as efficiency or undue burden, do not render jurisdiction in the forum unreasonable.
Supreme Court Affirms Cuozzo – Leaving in Place BRI and Judicial Review Limitation for IPR Proceedings
In Cuozzo Speed Technologies, LLC v. Lee, No. 15-446, the Supreme Court affirmed the Federal Circuit’s holdings that an alleged defect in the PTO’s institution of an inter partes review (IPR) was not subject to judicial review even on appeal of a final decision, and that the PTO can apply the “broadest reasonable interpretation” claim construction standard in IPR proceedings. Over 30 amicus briefs were filed in this case, with pharma/biotech innovators urging the Court to reverse the Federal Circuit.
Amgen Appeals Ruling on Requirement to Produce Manufacturing Information for a Biosimilar Product under Amgen v. Sandoz
Amgen has appealed a partial denial of its motion to compel in Amgen v. Hospira, which sought discovery of the formulation for the cell culture media that Hospira uses to manufacture its proposed biosimilar of Amgen’s Epogen. Judge Andrews of the District of Delaware granted Amgen’s motion to the extent it sought information relevant to infringement of an asserted patent, but did not agree with Amgen’s broader argument that disclosure of manufacturing information was required under the Federal Circuit’s decision in Amgen v. Sandoz, which held that an innovator company can commence suit when a biosimilar maker fails to provide required information under the statutory process set forth in the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act of 2009 (BPCIA) and “access the required information through discovery.” Amgen’s discovery dispute with Hospira represents an important lesson in the aftermath of Amgen v. Sandoz. Innovator companies that assert only a subset of their manufacturing patents, as Amgen did, may only be able to obtain discovery relevant to those patents. As a result, innovator companies may choose to assert all of their manufacturing patents in order to obtain manufacturing information that biosimilar makers fail to provide under the BPCIA.
Today, the Supreme Court deferred a decision on certiorari in Amgen v. Sandoz, inviting the Solicitor General to file a brief expressing the views of the United States. Sandoz petitioned for review of one aspect of the Federal Circuit’s 2015 decision, that court’s first and so far only interpretation of the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act of 2009 (BPCIA), and Amgen filed a conditional cross-petition asking for review of another aspect of the decision if Sandoz’s petition were granted. The Supreme Court’s order asks the Solicitor General to comment on both petitions.
Ariosa Diagnostics, Inc., Natera, Inc., and DNA Diagnostics Center, Inc. have filed briefs in opposition to Sequenom’s petition for writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court for review of the Federal Circuit’s decision holding Sequenom’s fetal DNA diagnostic patent ineligible under Section 101 and the test set out in Mayo Collaborative Servs. v. Prometheus Labs. Inc., 132 S. Ct. 1289 (2012).
The biotechnology and life sciences industry has voiced strong support for Sequenom’s recent request that the Supreme Court review the Federal Circuit’s decision holding that Sequenom’s patent on prenatal diagnosis using fetal DNA was invalid under 35 U.S.C. § 101 for claiming ineligible natural phenomena. Twenty-two amici have filed briefs in support of Sequenom’s petition, representing a diverse contingent of stakeholders: biotech and life science companies, innovators in other technological fields, academics, international and domestic professional organizations, and IP licensors. Many elaborate on the arguments raised by Sequenom in its petition, including the potential for a Mayo-induced “crisis of patent law and medical innovation.”
In the last couple of years, a new gene editing technique called CRISPR has taken biology by storm. Scientists worldwide are using CRISPR to turn off, turn on and alter genes in living cells. CRISPR is so precise that it is expected to turn into a promising therapy for correcting genes in people, thereby curing devastating illnesses. Gene editing startups have burst onto the scene and industry has jumped in to develop this technology for therapeutic use. But CRISPR is now embroiled in a massive patent fight between the research institutions that lay claim to the technology. In January, the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) declared an interference, an arcane and largely obsolete proceeding, to decide who was first to invent CRISPR gene editing in eukaryotic cells (using Cas9, a CRISPR associated protein), and thus who may be able to profit from its far-reaching applications.
Amgen’s Enbrel (etanercept), a blockbuster biologic treatment for a number of autoimmune diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis, has been an attractive target for biosimilar makers. Sandoz, the maker of Zarxio (filgrastim-sndz), the only biosimilar launched in the US to date, is also first in line with an Enbrel biosimilar in the US. Last October, Sandoz announced that FDA accepted its regulatory application for a proposed Enbrel biosimilar for review. Sandoz is seeking marketing approval for all of Enbrel’s medical indications. But Sandoz’s proposed Enbrel biosimilar brought litigation under the US biosimilars statute, the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act of 2009 (BPCIA).
Amgen has fired back in response to Sandoz’s cert petition in Amgen v. Sandoz, arguing that the Supreme Court should not hear the case—but that if it does, it should also review the Federal Circuit’s holding on the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act’s (BPCIA’s) “patent dance.” Though Amgen declined to seek cert on the patent dance issue, which it lost at the Federal Circuit, it has now filed a conditional cross-petition on that issue along with its opposition to Sandoz’s petition for review of the Federal Circuit’s holding on the BPCIA’s notice of commercial marketing.
On March 21, 2015, Sequenom filed a petition for writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court in Sequenom, Inc. v. Ariosa Diagnostics, et al. (No. 15-1182). Sequenom seeks Supreme Court review of a Federal Circuit decision holding Sequenom’s patent on a breakthrough non-invasive fetal DNA diagnostic method invalid as directed at patent-ineligible natural phenomena. In its petition, Sequenom calls its case the “ideal vehicle” for the Supreme Court to address mounting concern – acknowledged by the Federal Circuit below – that Mayo Collaborative Servs. v. Prometheus Labs. Inc., 132 S. Ct. 1289 (2012), has been interpreted too broadly, rendering otherwise meritorious inventions patent ineligible. Sequenom argues that the Federal Circuit’s interpretation of Mayo is incorrect and would have sweeping and devastating effects on innovation in biotechnology.
Federal Circuit's Jurisdictional Decision for ANDA Cases Has Important Implications for BPCIA Litigation
The Federal Circuit affirmed two decisions by the District of Delaware to assert personal jurisdiction in ANDA cases over West Virginia-based manufacturer Mylan. Mylan had argued that it could only be sued in West Virginia in ANDA cases post the Supreme Court's decision in Daimler AG v. Bauman, 134 S.Ct. 746 (2014) because such cases are litigated before actual sales of its generic drug product are made in Delaware (and elsewhere). The Federal Circuit grounded its rejection of Mylan's approach on Mylan's filing of its ANDAs with the clear intent to market its proposed generic drugs in Delaware upon FDA approval, as well as the injury Mylan would cause in Delaware through such sales. Under the Federal Circuit's decision, plaintiffs in ANDA and BPCIA cases can obtain jurisdiction over defendants in their forum of choice based on defendants' regulatory filings with the intent to market their proposed products so long as consideration of fairness, such as undue burden on defendants, do not render jurisdiction in the chosen forum unreasonable.
Despite mixed results, biosimilar makers continue to turn to inter partes review (IPR) proceedings in order to challenge innovator patents protecting some of the most important biologics.
In the latest skirmish between Amgen and Sandoz under the U.S. biosimilars statute, the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act of 2009 (BPCIA), Amgen has filed a new declaratory judgment claim alleging violations of the BPCIA. As described in Amgen’s March 4 complaint, after filing an application for a biosimilar version of Amgen’s cancer drug Neulasta, Sandoz cut short the BPCIA patent dance and demanded that Amgen file an immediate patent infringement suit, claiming that Amgen would otherwise lose its rights to seek lost profits and injunctive relief. Amgen responded with a suit for a declaration that it had no obligation to go forward with the immediate litigation phase of the BPCIA after Sandoz cut off the pre-suit procedures.
Sandoz has filed a petition for a writ of certiorari in Amgen v. Sandoz, the first and, to date, only Federal Circuit decision interpreting the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act (BPCIA). Sandoz is challenging the Federal Circuit's ruling that biosimilar applicants must observe a 180-day notice period after their products are approved by the FDA.
Nearly six years after the U.S. biosimilar statute was passed, the number of reported decisions addressing the statute can still be counted on the fingers of two hands, but this has been enough for some clear patterns to emerge. Again and again, biosimilar applicants and innovators have taken consistent, but diametrically opposed, positions on fundamental issues concerning the operation of the statute. As the courts have resolved these disputes, the basic framework for biosimilar patent litigation has taken shape – at least until the next generation of biosimilar applications raises new issues.
Amgen has decided not to seek Supreme Court review of the Federal Circuit’s Amgen v. Sandoz decision, as the January 14, 2016 deadline to file has now passed without Amgen petitioning for certiorari. In Amgen, the Federal Circuit held that the BPCIA’s “patent dance” patent dispute resolution procedures are essentially optional. With the Federal Circuit having already denied en banc review, Amgen’s decision not to seek cert appears to mean that the patent dance is now optional as a matter of settled law. There is, however, one caveat: if Sandoz seeks cert and the Court accepts, Amgen could file a cross-motion on the patent dance issue.
The Federal Circuit Will Hear Apotex’s Appeal from a Preliminary Injunction Under the BPCIA in Early 2016
In early 2016, the Federal Circuit will hear Apotex’s appeal from a preliminary injunction barring Apotex from selling its proposed Neulasta biosimilar for 180 days after FDA approval. Briefing will be complete on February 12, 2016, and the Federal Circuit agreed to place the case on the oral argument calendar soon thereafter. Apotex had asked for a more expedited schedule but was not able to provide any specific evidence of when its proposed biosimilar product will be approved.
On December 9, a federal district court in Florida issued a preliminary injunction prohibiting Apotex from selling a proposed biosimilar version of Amgen’s cancer drug Neulasta for 180 days after the biosimilar is approved. In the decision, the district court resolved in Amgen’s favor a dispute over the meaning of the Federal Circuit’s recent decision in Amgen v. Sandoz, the first and to date the only appellate decision addressing the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act of 2009 (BPCIA).
Last month, in a case under the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act of 2009 (BPCIA) involving Apotex’s proposed biosimilar of Amgen’s Neulasta (pegfilgrastim), Apotex accused Amgen of sham litigation for bringing a patent infringement claim on a that the parties agreed to litigate during the immediate litigation phase of the BPCIA. In its Answer to Apotex’s Counterclaims, Amgen pointed out that Apotex had agreed to include the patent in the BPCIA infringement action, despite having a statutory option to disagree.
In Nautilus, Inc. v. Biosig Instruments, Inc., 134 S. Ct. 2120 (2014), the Supreme Court rejected the Federal Circuit’s “insolubly ambiguous” standard for determining whether a patent claim meets the definiteness requirement under 35 U.S.C. §112, ¶ 2, and that “a patent is invalid for indefiniteness if its claims, read in light of the specification delineating the patent, and the prosecution history, fail to inform, with reasonable certainty, those skilled in the art about the scope of the invention.” In the ensuing one and a half years, the Federal Circuit and several trial courts have applied the Nautilus standard in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical contexts. We discuss three notable decisions.
After the FDA approved the first U.S. biosimilar, Sandoz’s Zarxio (filgrastim-sndz), earlier this year, many predicted that the floodgates would open for biosimilar products. That has not been the case. No other U.S. biosimilar product has been approved. And, as FDA’s recent rejection of Hospira’s EPO biosimilar application suggests, Zarxio’s approval may ultimately provide little guidance for more complex products.
The first biosimilar makers to file regulatory applications with FDA attempted to bypass all or a subset of the patent litigation provisions of the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act of 2009 (BPCIA). Apotex, the third biosimilar maker to file an application for approval of a biosimilar product with FDA, chose a different course. Apotex participated in and completed the BPCIA’s pre-suit information exchanges (also known as the “patent dance”) for its proposed biosimilar of Amgen’s Neulasta (pegfilgrastim). As Amgen’s recent lawsuit shows, Apotex followed the patent dance again for its proposed biosimilar of Amgen’s Neupogen (filgrastim).
This morning, the full Federal Circuit declined to rehear en banc Amgen v. Sandoz, the first appellate decision interpreting the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act of 2009 (BPCIA). The decision to deny en banc review comes as something of a surprise, as the panel decision was fractured, and neither party disputed that it raised important issues of first impression. Indeed, both parties sought en banc review, albeit on different issues. In a per curiam order issued this morning, the court denied both petitions. Unless the Supreme Court (or a later en banc court) intervenes, the panel’s decision will stand as the Federal Circuit’s authoritative statement on the issues presented.
Last month, Amgen sued Hospira in Delaware under the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act of 2009 (BPCIA) over Hospira’s proposed biosimilar version of Amgen’s Epogen (epoetin alfa). Amgen brought, among others, two BPCIA-specific claims under 42 U.S.C. § 262(l)(2)(A) (relating to Hospira’s alleged failure to provide the required manufacturing information) and 42 U.S.C. § 262(l)(8)(A) (relating to Hospira’s allegedly ineffective 180-day notice of commercial marketing). On October 13, Hospira moved to dismiss these claims, arguing that Congress did not create a private right of action to enforce the BPCIA. The issues raised in Hospira’s motion to dismiss are currently before the Federal Circuit in Amgen’s and Sandoz’s petitions for rehearing en banc.
Amgen recently sued Apotex under the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act of 2009 (BPCIA) over Apotex’s proposed biosimilar of Amgen’s Neulasta (pegfilgrastim), a long-lasting version of Neupogen. This is the first BPCIA suit to reach the courts after completion of the BPCIA’s pre-suit information exchange, the so-called patent dance. On October 5, 2015, Apotex filed its Answer with Counterclaims. Despite agreeing on which patents should be the subject of immediate patent infringement litigation under the BPCIA, Apotex now alleges that Amgen’s suit on one of those patents is sham litigation in violation of the Sherman Act.
Sandoz Inc. announced on October 2, 2015 that FDA accepted its regulatory application for a proposed biosimilar of Amgen Inc.’s biologic arthritis drug Enbrel for review. The acceptance comes years after Sandoz attempted to bypass the litigation provisions of the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act of 2009 (BPCIA). It remains to be seen whether Sandoz now will follow the BPCIA and provide its regulatory application and other manufacturing information to Amgen since the Federal Circuit has recently held that doing so is optional in Amgen v. Sandoz, another case involving the same parties and the Federal Circuit’s first decision to interpret the BPCIA. Amgen is currently seeking en banc review of this ruling.
Defendants in Hatch-Waxman cases continue to contest personal jurisdiction outside of their "home" state, in reliance on the Supreme Court's decision in Daimler AG v. Bauman. Most district courts have rejected such arguments, and found that jurisdiction is proper in the patent owner's preferred forum based on consent-by-registration jurisdiction or specific jurisdiction. Both theories of personal jurisdiction are on appeal before the Federal Circuit, and oral argument is likely to occur early in 2016. The lessons learned in the Hatch-Waxman context will provide guidance for litigation under the BPCIA.
On September 18, 2015, Amgen sued Hospira in a fourth lawsuit under the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act of 2009 (BPCIA). The lawsuit concerns Hospira’s proposed biosimilar of Amgen’s Epogen (epoetin alfa). Amgen filed the case in Delaware and it has been assigned to Judge Andrews. In addition to its claims for patent infringement, Amgen sued Hospira for failing to comply with the patent litigation provisions of the BPCIA. Hospira’s proposed biosimilar has not been licensed by FDA. FDA also has not announced plans for an advisory committee meeting for Hospira’s product.
In Ariosa Diagnostics Inc. v. Sequenom Inc., 788 F.3d 1371 (Fed. Cir. 2015), a Federal Circuit panel held that Sequenom Inc.’s noninvasive prenatal diagnosis patent claims patent ineligible subject matter under the two-step test of Mayo Collaborative Servs. v. Prometheus Labs., Inc., 132 S. Ct. 1289 (2012). Sequenom petitioned the court for rehearing en banc, arguing that the panel failed to consider the claimed method as a whole and that its analysis was therefore contrary to Supreme Court precedent. Sequenom’s petition received strong support from amici from numerous organizations, companies and academic groups. There were 12 amicus briefs in total, raising a variety of additional arguments in support of en banc review. On September 3, 2015, the court invited appellees to file a response to the petition for rehearing en banc.
In the first skirmishes between biosimilar makers and innovator companies, biosimilar makers attempted to bypass the litigation provisions of the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act of 2009 (BPCIA) through the filing of declaratory judgment actions, or by not participating in all or a subset of the BPCIA’s pre-suit information exchanges (also known as the “patent dance”). Apotex, the third biosimilar maker to file an application for approval of a biosimilar product with FDA, chose a different path. As Amgen’s recent lawsuit against Apotex reveals, Apotex is the first biosimilar applicant to participate in and complete the carefully orchestrated pre-suit information exchanges of the BPCIA.
Today, Sandoz (a Novartis subsidiary) launched the first biosimilar approved under the BPCIA: the cancer drug Zarxio (filgrastim-sndz), which is a biosimilar version of Amgen’s Neupogen. The launch follows the Federal Circuit’s decision enjoining Sandoz from launching Zarxio for 180 days and the court’s recent denial of Amgen’s emergency motion to extend the injunction pending Amgen’s and Sandoz’s cross-petitions for rehearing en banc.
A number of biosimilar makers have turned to inter partes review (IPR) proceedings to challenge innovator patents prior to submitting their biosimilar applications to FDA. IPRs have been attractive to biosimilar makers because in addition to offering procedural and substantive advantages for challenging patents they do not require the filing of a biosimilar application. As a result, they make it possible for biosimilar makers to obtain patent certainty at a time when litigation under the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act of 2009 (BPCIA) is premature and, depending on the results of the IPRs, may be avoided entirely. The first such IPRs, however, are yielding mixed results, leaving potential patent disputes for later BPCIA litigation.
Last month, a divided panel of the Federal Circuit issued a split decision in Amgen v. Sandoz. Amgen is the court’s first decision interpreting the patent dispute resolution provisions of the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act (BPCIA). But if the parties have their way, the panel decision will not be the Federal Circuit’s last word on the issues in dispute – and the court’s next intervention may come sooner rather than later. Last week, both parties petitioned for en banc rehearing of the panel’s decision. And on Wednesday, Amgen filed an emergency motion for an injunction pending en banc consideration and review, asking the full court to make a preliminary assessment of the issues before September 2, when the injunction issued by the original panel expires.
In a victory for holders of method patents, the Federal Circuit issued an en banc decision yesterday expanding the scope of direct infringement when multiple parties perform different steps of an invention. In its unanimous Akamai Techs. v. Limelight Networks decision, the appeals court provided a fact-based test for determining when “all method steps can be attributed to a single entity” such that direct infringement can be found under 35 U.S.C. § 271(a). Unlike the earlier panel decision that was overturned, the en banc court held that infringement can, in some circumstances, be attributed to a single entity even when there is an arms-length business relationship between that entity and the other parties that perform steps of the patented method.
The Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act (BPCIA) provides for a series of disclosures between a biosimilar applicant and the innovator company, commonly referred to as the “patent dance.” In determining the standard and appropriate level of detail required by the disclosures pursuant to the patent dance, looking to analogous disclosure requirements in the Hatch-Waxman context provides helpful guidance. Gleaning from the Hatch-Waxman context, “detailed statement” disclosures under the BPCIA should have a reasonable basis and establish a prima facie case of invalidity or non-infringement. Moreover, as in the Hatch-Waxman context, filing “baseless” non-infringement or invalidity positions may risk sanctions as an “exceptional case” that may warrant attorney fees under 35 U.S.C. § 285.
In Teva v. Sandoz, the Supreme Court held that findings of fact subsidiary to a claim construction decision are entitled to deference on appeal. Teva has the potential to transform claim construction proceedings, but the extent of the impact will depend on how it is applied by the Federal Circuit. Three recent Federal Circuit decisions give mixed signals about its post-Teva approach to appellate review.
The BPCIA created an abbreviated pathway for FDA approval of biological medicinal products that are “biosimilar” to an already FDA-approved product. The FDA recently approved the first U.S. biosimilar – Sandoz’s biosimilar of Amgen’s Neupogen – and is currently reviewing at least four other proposed biosimilars. Many innovators and biosimilars manufacturers are responding to the changing landscape for biologics by developing “biobetters”: new and improved versions of biologic medicinal products. While biobetters require discovery and an original Biologics License Application (BLA) with a full complement of pre-clinical and clinical data for marketing approval, they also offer many advantages. By offering superior and longer-acting medicine, biobetters provide a competitive advantage over biosimilar products. In addition, unlike biosimilars, they generally would be entitled to patent protection and 12 years of non-patent exclusivity under the BPCIA.
The Federal Circuit recently handed down a long-awaited Section 101 decision, one with potentially far-reaching consequences for biotech diagnostic patents. In Ariosa Diagnostics Inc. v. Sequenom Inc., No. 14-1139 (Fed. Cir. June 12, 2015), the Federal Circuit, applying the U.S. Supreme Court’s test for patent eligibility set out in Mayo Collaborative Servs. v. Prometheus Labs. Inc., 132 S. Ct. 1289 (2012), invalidated Sequenom’s breakthrough patent on noninvasive prenatal diagnosis through the amplification and detection of paternally inherited cell-free fetal DNA (“cffDNA”) in the blood of pregnant women. According to the court, “even such valuable contributions can fall short of statutory subject matter” under the test set out in Mayo. In addition to its implications for other biotech patents and investment in diagnostics, the Federal Circuit’s decision illustrates the potentially unintended consequences of Mayo and the need for a legislative solution so that breakthrough manmade inventions remain patent-eligible.
On June 3, the parties in Amgen v. Sandoz presented oral arguments to the Federal Circuit as part of their dispute over the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act (BPCIA). While both sides received heavy questioning, several commentators have suggested that the panel’s comments favored Amgen, which previously obtained an injunction pending appeal. There is no timetable for a decision but the appeal is expedited.
On May 26, 2015, the Supreme Court reversed the Federal Circuit’s decision in Commil USA, LLC v Cisco Systems, Inc. and held that a defendant’s belief regarding patent validity is not a defense to an induced infringement claim. The Supreme Court’s Decision is a big win for the pharmaceutical industry, where method of treatment patents provide important protection for innovative medical therapies. The Federal Circuit’s good-faith belief in invalidity defense gutted liability for inducing infringement of such patents. The Supreme Court’s reversal allows these valuable patents to be enforced against the companies that induce infringement. It also deters “at risk” launches prior to a district court decision on the validity of the patents.
A number of biosimilar makers have turned to inter partes review (IPR) proceedings in order to litigate the validity of patents that cover their proposed products in advance of submitting their regulatory applications to FDA. Since IPRs, unlike district court proceedings, do not require a case or controversy, they allow biosimilar applicants to resolve potential patent disputes long prior to being able to litigate these disputes in district court and to potentially avoid the patent dispute resolution procedures of the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act (BPCIA) of 2009 entirely.
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