Category: PTO Proceedings
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has announced that it will defer application fees for certain inventions relating to the fight against COVID-19. In its September 16 announcement, the PTO acknowledged its role in "dissemination of important scientific information to the public to promote further innovation" and recognized that this "information flow is now more important than ever in view of the urgent challenges posted by the COVID-19 outbreak." As such, the PTO's new program will allow these applicants to defer payment of COVID-related provisional application filing fees until the filing of a corresponding, non-provisional application.
At the end of 2017, inter partes review (IPR) proceedings for biosimilar products were on the rise. This was followed by a dip in the number of new filings in FY 2018 and the first half of 2019. Through Q1 2020, this downward trend has continued. Specifically, there has been one new biosimilar IPR filing in the nine-month period from the beginning of Q3 2019 through the end of Q1 2020, leading to a total of 102 total biosimilar patent IPRs. See Fresenius Kabi USA, LLC et al. v. Amgen, Inc. et al., IPR2020-00314 (December 20, 2019).
In Mayo, Federal Circuit Seeks to Head Off Disputes Over When Claims Are “Deemed Allowable” by Counting Continued Examination Time Until Notice of Allowance
Earlier this week, the Federal Circuit declined to further extend the patent term of an antibody patent held by the Mayo Foundation. In Mayo Foundation v. Iancu, the court held that the time spent on a request for continued examination (“RCE”) following a declaration of interference did not count toward the three-year application pendency period for purposes of patent term extension. As discussed below, the Mayo decision could have implications for the terms of biologics patents issued following a request for continued examination.
On December 22, 2018, the United States federal government entered a partial shutdown, which now enters its 19th day. If the shutdown continues through the weekend, it will be the longest federal government shutdown in U.S. history. While many federal offices and services are completely closed, agencies that impact biologics—including the FDA, the USPTO, and the Federal Judiciary—remain open in various capacities, at least for now. Nevertheless, if the shutdown continues, the biotech/pharmaceutical industry could begin to feel its effects.
Today FDA approved the first-ever “small interfering RNA” (siRNA) product, marking a significant milestone in the story of RNA interference (RNAi) technology and clearing the way for a new type of therapeutic. Alnylam® secured approval and Orphan Drug Designation for its siRNA product Onpattro (patisiran), a therapy for the rare hereditary disease transthyretin-mediated amyloidosis in adult patients. The disease is caused by mutations in a protein called “transthyretin” which leads to symptoms of neuropathic pain, loss of sensation in the hands and feet, and wheel-chair confinement. In Alnylam’s Phase III clinical trial, Onpattro improved multiple clinical manifestations of the disease and demonstrated safe administration of a siRNA product.
Allergan’s attempt to shield its Restasis patents from inter partes review by assigning the patents to the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe was rejected last week by a unanimous Federal Circuit panel. The Federal Circuit affirmed the PTAB’s February 2018 decision holding that tribal sovereign immunity does not bar IPRs.
Last week, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of inter partes review (IPR), as expected by most observers. However, it was the Court’s decision in a second IPR-related case that will have an immediate impact on patent practitioners. In SAS Institute Inc. v. Iancu, the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, held that the PTO’s practice of “partial review”—instituting an IPR on some but not all claims challenged in a petition for IPR—is inconsistent with the text of the AIA. The decision will lead to immediate consequences, not the least of which is a major increase in the number of claims tried before the PTAB.
In a highly anticipated ruling, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of inter partes review proceedings. Justice Thomas, writing for the seven-member majority in Oil States Energy Services, LLC v. Greene’s Energy Group, LLC, held that the Patent Trial and Appeal Board could reconsider and cancel patent claims through inter partes review without violating Article III or the Seventh Amendment of the Constitution.
Win or Go Home? Standing to Appeal PTAB Decisions Upholding Patentability to the Federal Circuit Before Submitting a Biosimilar Marketing Application
Biosimilar developers have been aggressive in filing petitions for inter partes reviews (IPRs) of biologics patents before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB), many of them preceding the filing of a marketing application. Such early IPRs are attractive to biosimilar makers, because they provide a chance to challenge innovator patents years before the biosimilar maker files a marketing application with FDA. Since a petitioner need not have Article III case-or-controversy standing to bring an IPR, the remoteness and uncertainty of future infringement in such circumstances does not preclude these early IPRs. Under settled precedent, however, a biosimilar maker must have Article III standing to seek a Federal Circuit appeal if the PTAB issues a final decision upholding the challenged patent. A decision expected from the Federal Circuit this quarter in Momenta Pharmaceuticals, Inc. v. Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., No. 17-1694 (Fed. Cir. argued Dec. 5, 2017) will address how and when a biosimilar maker can establish that standing.
In a highly anticipated decision on the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe’s motion to terminate inter partes review proceedings, the Patent Trial and Appeal Board rejected tribal sovereign immunity to IPRs. The PTAB’s decision also raised doubts about the effectiveness of assignments even in cases where the sovereign assignee has immunity but the assignor effectively still owns the patent. The portion of the decision broadly holding that tribal sovereign immunity does not apply to IPRs came as a surprise to some commentators, who observed that the PTAB could have reached the same result on narrower grounds. Following on the heels of the PTAB’s December 2017 University of Minnesota decision holding that a sovereign waives immunity to IPRs when it asserts the patent at issue in district court, Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe deals another blow for patentees seeking to avoid IPRs with sovereign immunity.
On Wednesday, February 15, 2017, the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (“PTAB”) ruled in favor of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard in a closely watched patent fight with UC Berkeley over the breakthrough CRISPR genome-editing technology. The PTAB concluded that the Broad Institute’s later-filed patents for using CRISPR in eukaryotic cells did not interfere with Berkeley’s earlier-filed patent application that disclosed the use of CRISPR technology in vitro and claimed the use of CRISPR technology in general.
It has been four years since the first inter partes review proceedings were filed in the United States. The first IPR petition, filed on September 16, 2012 (the first day IPRs became available), made it all the way to the Supreme Court, and the number of IPRs has greatly exceeded expectations, making the Patent Trial and Appeal Board one of the most important and busiest forums for patent validity litigation in the US. IPRs were intended to help high-tech innovators besieged with suits from patent trolls to efficiently and cheaply invalidate dubious patents and focus on innovation. But the impact of these proceedings goes far beyond electrical and computer fields as they have had a major impact on biotech and pharmaceutical patents as well. The PTAB proceedings for U.S. Patent No. 6,331,415 (better known as the “Cabilly II patent”) – one of the most litigated biotech patents in the US – offer key insights into IPRs and why they are widely used across technologies.
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’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).
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.
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.
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.
Protective orders preventing litigation counsel from participating in the prosecution of litigation-related patents are commonplace. These restrictions, however, could prejudice brand companies in light of the increasing trend among generic and biosimilar applicants to file IPR proceedings on the same patents that are at issue in litigation. In such cases where “the PTO and district court are just two fronts in the same battle,” courts have been liberal in allowing litigation counsel to participate in IPR proceedings, post-grant proceedings, and reexaminations.
Welcome to the Biologics Blog, which will track and analyze developments in intellectual property law related to biologic medical products as well as regulatory and legislative changes. Our impetus for starting the blog is the recent onset of regulatory activity and litigation under the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act of 2009 (“BPCIA”), which created a new regulatory and legal framework for biosimilar and interchangeable biologic products.