Addressing the issue of whether a generic pharmaceutical company can be found to induce infringement even when all patented uses have been “carved out” of the label (resulting in a so-called “skinny label”), the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit held that circumstantial evidence of inducement was sufficient. The Court relied on evidence that defendant stated its drug was a “complete replacement” for plaintiff’s drug covered by the asserted patent. GlaxoSmithKline LLC et al. v. Teva Pharmaceuticals USA Inc., Case Nos. 18-1976, -2023 (Fed. Cir. Oct. 2, 2020) (Newman, J.) (Prost, C.J., dissenting). The Court reinstated a jury verdict against Teva Pharmaceuticals, ordering it to pay GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) $235 million.
GSK brought suit against Teva in 2014 in response to Teva’s attempt to market a generic form of carvedilol, developed and marketed by GSK under the brand name Coreg®. Coreg® was US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved for three separate indications: hypertension, congestive heart failure (CHF), and left ventricular dysfunction following a myocardial infarction (post-MI LVD). After March 2007, however, no GSK Orange-Book-listed patent covered the hypertension or post-MI LVD indications. A reissue patent that issued in January 2008 remained in force for CHF.
In 2002, Teva filed an abbreviated new drug application (ANDA) with the FDA. Before Teva’s carvedilol product was finally approved in September 2007, Teva amended its ANDA and proposed label to “carve out” the CHF indication according to 21 USC § 355(j)(2)(A)(viii)—often referred to as a “section viii carve-out.” Thus, Teva’s carvedilol “skinny label” was only indicated for hypertension and post-MI LVD, neither of which was, at that time, covered by any GSK patent.
After a trial, the jury found that Teva had willfully induced infringement of GSK’s patent and awarded GSK $235 million in damages. The district court then granted Teva’s motion for judgment as a matter of law, concluding that the inducement verdict was not supported by substantial evidence. GSK, the district court reasoned, had failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that Teva’s alleged inducement (as opposed to other factors) had actually caused even at least one physician to prescribe generic carvedilol for CHF. GSK appealed.
On appeal, the Federal Circuit overturned the grant of judgment as a matter of law, reasoning that the “intent element” of inducement may be proven through circumstantial evidence. The Court noted that the jury had received evidence of, e.g., “Teva’s promotional materials [referring] to Teva’s carvedilol tablets as AB rated equivalents of the Coreg® tablets,” press releases identifying Teva’s product as “Generic Coreg® Tablets,” Teva’s Monthly Prescribing References, and testimony from GSK’s cardiologist witness that physicians are “completely reliant” on information provided by the generic companies. The majority concluded that this was “ample record evidence . . . to support the jury verdict of inducement.”
Chief Circuit Judge Prost authored a lengthy dissent warning of the broad implications of the majority’s ruling, including contravening the congressional design and intent of the generic approval system, and potentially stifling innovation by giving rise to liability for marketing a drug for unpatented uses. Prost also argued that “[t]he district court got it right,” and that the “record established that doctors relied on other sources of information, not Teva, in making their decision to prescribe carvedilol.”
Practice Note: Legal analysts suggest that this case is likely to be appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States. Teva may also seek Federal Circuit en banc review of the split panel decision.