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Rules of Evidence Require Weighing Relevance of Evidence Against Potential Prejudice

The US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit affirmed the exclusion of a drug patent in a medical malpractice case, finding that the highly technical language of the patent would more likely confuse a lay jury than be probative of the issues in the case. Ward v. Schaefer, Case No. 22-1547 (1st Cir. Jan. 29, 2024) (per curiam).

In 2018 Edmund Ward sued his doctor, Ernst Schaefer, claiming that Dr. Schaefer had fraudulently induced Ward to participate in an experimental drug protocol and had otherwise failed to obtain his informed consent. Ward was born with a rare genetic disorder that caused his body to not produce a blood enzyme, lecithin-cholesterol acyltransferase (LCAT), that is critical for cholesterol production. As a result, Ward was at risk of kidney failure and would require either regular dialysis or a kidney transplant. When Ward met Dr. Schaefer, Ward’s condition was deteriorating. Dr. Schaefer suggested that Ward might be a suitable candidate for an experimental enzyme therapy with a drug called ACP-501, and Ward, under an expanded access application, was granted permission to start an experimental protocol.

Ward traveled from his home in Massachusetts to a National Institutes of Health (NIH) facility in Bethesda, Maryland, to receive infusions of ACP-501 and was monitored by Dr. Schaefer in Massachusetts. Unfortunately, Ward’s condition did not improve under the experimental protocol but instead worsened because he was compelled to delay dialysis treatments while using ACP-501. Ward stopped the experimental protocol; began regular dialysis; and sued Dr. Schaefer, the NIH doctors and the drug manufacturer. The district court dismissed the claims against most of the plaintiffs, but the claims of fraud and failure to obtain informed consent against Dr. Schaefer went to trial. Ward’s signed consent form was admitted into evidence at trial, but he claimed he had no memory of discussing it with his doctors or signing it. The jury found in favor of Dr. Schaefer on all claims. Ward appealed.

Ward argued that the court erred in refusing to allow the introduction of the patent for ACP-501 because the patent specified that it was a method for reducing arterial cholesterol in patients not suffering from LCAT deficiency. Ward argued that this language in the patent made clear that the drug was not appropriate for patients like him. The district court ruled that the patent was inadmissible because it had been offered without foundation, and that it had nothing to do with the issues of fraud and informed consent. On appeal, the First Circuit offered a different analysis but arrived at the same outcome, holding that the Fed. R. Evid. 403 balancing test “disposes of the matter.”

The First Circuit noted that the patent’s description of ACT-501 “is of absolutely no relevance to Dr. Schaefer’s alleged failure to apprise Ward of the potential risks and rewards of taking the drug through expanded access.” The Court went on to point out that even if the single sentence in the patent pointing to its exclusion for patients with LCAT [...]

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2023 IP Outlook: What to Watch in Patent, Trademark and Copyright Law

Coming out of 2022, developments around the globe are shaping the intellectual property (IP) landscape in the new year. We are seeing cases at the intersection of IP law and NFTs, the opening of the Unified Patent Court in Europe, and decisions from the Supreme Court of the United States and the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affecting innovators and brand owners.

McDermott’s 2023 IP Outlook examines the top trends and decisions in IP law from the past year and shares what you and your business should look out for in the year ahead.

The Latest in SEP Licensing

Amol Parikh

The uncertainty surrounding standard essential patent (SEP) licensing persisted in 2022 and shows little sign of clearing in 2023. SEPs must be licensed to technology implementers on fair, reasonable and nondiscriminatory (FRAND) terms. Because there is no formal definition of FRAND terms, however, legal decisions involving FRAND have historically been determined by courts and non-governmental standard-setting organizations (SSOs). Disputes are frequent—especially between patent owners and technology implementers—and are becoming even more so as advanced wireless technologies such as 5G and WiFi 6 proliferate. Read more.

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Improper Inventorship in US Patent Litigations

Mandy H. Kim | Cecilia Choy, Ph.D.

Inventorship issues can have serious implications in patent litigation, leading to invalidation or unenforceability of the patent at issue, as seen in several notable 2022 cases. In the coming year, patent owners should take steps to minimize risks related to improper inventorship challenges. Read more.

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Patent Decisions Affecting Pharma and Biotech Companies

Douglas H. Carsten | Anisa Noorassa

The past year brought many developments in the life sciences patent legal space. Three decisions in particular hold potential ramifications for drug makers and patent holders in 2023. This year, the Supreme Court of the United States is also expected to consider standards patents claiming a genus must meet to withstand a validity challenge under Section 112—a ruling that could have a significant impact on patent holders in the biotech industry. Read more. 

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Trends in the Western District of Texas

Syed K. Fareed | Alexander Piala, Ph.D. | Christian Tatum

Over the past year, two developments infiltrated the Western District of Texas (WDTX) which may decrease the success of venue transfers and keep case volume steady in 2023. These developments could also give plaintiffs more control over where litigation takes place, including more control over having a case tried before Judge Alan Albright in the Waco Division of the WDTX.
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Paris Court of Appeals Rejects Pharmaceutical Supplementary Protection Certificate Applications

One of the conditions for obtaining an SPC is that “the product is protected by a basic patent in force”. The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) clarified to what extent a product must be identified by the claims to meet this condition in Teva, Eli Lilly, and Royalty Pharma.

In Eli Lilly, the CJEU notes that an active ingredient which is not identified in the claims of a basic patent by means of a structural or functional definition cannot be considered to be “protected by a basic patent.”

The active ingredient does not, however, have to be identified in the claims by a structural formula. A functional definition of the active ingredient may suffice if it is possible to reach the conclusion on the basis of the claims (interpreted in light of the description of the invention) that they relate “implicitly but necessarily and specifically, to the active ingredient in question.

Click here to read the full article in our latest International News.




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IP Ownership Considerations in Multi-jurisdictional Software Development Agreements

As a result of the healthcare sector’s growing dependence on software, health IT companies are increasingly taking advantage of globalisation to engage contractors in low wage jurisdictions to develop their user-facing software applications. This can trigger unforeseen legal risks owing to the differing laws across jurisdictions related to the ownership and transfer of intellectual property (IP) rights.

At the most extreme end, best practices in some jurisdictions are unenforceable or even impermissible in others. In view of these issues, it is strongly recommended that a company looking to take advantage of cross-border contracting for critical development eorts should carefully consider the choice of law provisions in their agreements, and engage with local counsel to ensure proper vesting of intellectual property rights.

An inability to demonstrate proper ownership of such rights can be a substantial obstacle for later financings or in corporate activities. Depending on the jurisdictions involved, a contracting company may need to concern itself with at least three types of IP in the software that is developed on its behalf: copyrights, moral or author’s rights, and patents.

Click here to read the full article in our latest edition of International News.




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Only Human: Broadest Reasonable Interpretation Standard Applies to Intentionally Expired Patent

Affirming an invalidity finding by the Patent and Trial Appeal Board (PTAB), the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit found that the claims of the now-expired patent should be construed under the broadest reasonable interpretation (BRI) standard, and not under the Phillips standard, because the patent owner intentionally gave up the remainder of the patent term only after the appeal was fully briefed. Immunex Corp. v. Sanofi-Aventis U.S. LLC, Case Nos. 19-1749, -1777 (Fed. Cir. Oct. 13, 2020) (Prost, C.J.).

Immunex owns a patent directed to human antibodies that inhabit certain receptors to treat inflammatory diseases such as arthritis. After being sued for infringement, Sanofi and Regeneron (collectively, Sanofi) requested inter partes review (IPR) of the patent, which the PTAB instituted. Based on the IPR filing date and because the patent was unexpired during the pendency of the IPR proceeding, the PTAB used the BRI standard to construe various claim terms. Had the patent been expired, the PTAB would have used the more stringent Phillips standard to construe the claims. Ultimately, the PTAB found all of the challenged claims unpatentable. Immunex appealed.

After appellate briefing was complete, Immunex filed a terminal disclaimer of its patent. The US Patent and Trademark Office accepted the terminal disclaimer, and as a result the patent term expired approximately two months before oral argument. Immunex then filed a citation of supplemental authority informing the Federal Circuit of the terminal disclaimer and asking the Court to change the applicable claim construction standard from BRI to Phillips.

The Federal Circuit found that the application of the BRI standard to Immunex’s patent was appropriate. Although the PTAB currently applies the Phillips claim construction standard in all newly filed IPRs, at the time that Sanofi filed its IPRs, the PTAB applied the Phillips standard only to expired patents. For unexpired patents, it applied the BRI standard. The Court noted that the use of the Phillips standard in cases where the patent expired during the appellate process should not be an absolute, particularly when the patent term expired at an unexpected early date, such as through the filing of a terminal disclaimer.

The Federal Circuit further affirmed the PTAB’s claim construction under the BRI standard and the invalidity finding predicated on that claim construction. The issue on appeal was whether a “human antibody” must be entirely human (as asserted by Immunex) or whether it may also be “partially human,” including “humanized” (as asserted by Sanofi and construed by the PTAB). The Court agreed with the PTAB and found that the patent’s specification supported the conclusion that the BRI of “human antibody” “includes both fully human and partially human antibodies.” The Court also found that “human antibodies” in the context of the patent-in-suit is a broad category that encompasses both partially and completely human antibodies. The Court therefore affirmed the PTAB’s finding.

The Federal Circuit also commented on the PTAB’s departure from an earlier claim construction ruling by a district court in which “human” was construed to mean “fully [...]

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Inherent Claim Limitation Necessarily Present in the Prior Art Invalidates Patent

Addressing the issue of obviousness, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed the district court’s finding that a patent was invalid based on inherency because the claim limitation was necessarily present in the prior art. Hospira, Inc. v. Fresenius Kabi USA, LLC, Case Nos. 19-1329, -1367 (Fed. Cir. Jan. 9, 2020) (Lourie, J).

The patent at-issue is directed to premixed pharmaceutical compositions of dexmedetomidine that do not require reconstitution or dilution prior to administration and remains stable and active after prolonged storage. Hospira makes and sells dexmedetomidine products, including a ready-to-use product called Precedex Premix covered by the patent at-issue. Fresenius filed an Abbreviated New Drug Application (ANDA) seeking approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to market a generic ready-to-use dexmedetomidine product. Hospira brought suit alleging infringement under the Hatch-Waxman Act.

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Making the Most of Markush

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit expanded the Markush doctrine, determining that the claim language “comprising . . . [at least] . . . a group consisting of . . .” absent some basis or extrinsic evidence for limiting the group, such a group could capture an alleged infringement  having an additional component  present, as long as the additional component is “functionally similar” to the component identified in the Markush group limitation. ,Amgen Inc. v. Amneal Pharm. LLC, Case No. 18-2414 (Fed. Cir. Jan. 7, 2020) (Lourie, J).

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Slipping Through the Cracks of the § 271(e)(1) Safe Harbor

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed that the majority of the batches of an accused biosimilar manufactured by Hospira were not protected by the Safe Harbor exemption of § 271(e)(1), and that patent infringement damages were not unreasonable, notwithstanding that none of the accused product had been sold. Amgen Inc. v. Hospira, Inc., Case Nos. 19-1067; -1102 (Fed. Cir., Dec. 16, 2019)(Moore, J.).

EPO is a glycoprotein that regulates red blood cell development. Recombinant versions of EPO are used to treat anemia. One example is Amgen’s product Epogen. In 2014, Hospira submitted a Biologics License Application (BLA) to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requesting approval for its EPO biosimilar. Amgen then sued Hospira for infringement of its patent directed to methods of producing EPO isoforms and its patent directed to recombinant cells producing EPO at certain rates. Specifically, Amgen asserted that 21 pre-approval batches of EPO manufactured by Hospira infringed various claims of these patents.

Hospira appealed.

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