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The Future of Skinny Labeling in Patent Litigation Will be Reconsidered

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has now vacated its prior ruling finding induced infringement based on so-called skinny labeling on a pharmaceutical product. GlaxoSmithKline LLC v. Teva Pharmaceuticals USA Inc., Case no.18-1876 (Fed. Cir. Feb. 9, 2021) PER CURIAM. The case concerns communications regarding generic approvals and “skinny labels,” which permit companies to sell pharmaceutical products that omit certain patented uses.

On Oct. 2, 2020, a panel of the Federal Circuit (PROST, C.J ., NEWMAN and MOORE, JJ.) issued an opinion finding that Teva induced infringement of a patent covering GlaxoSmithKline’s (GSK’s) drug Coreg® (carvedilol). In a per curiam Order, the Court has now vacated that opinion and set a new round of oral arguments that was held on February 23.

Teva had requested an en banc rehearing the case, which was denied in the Order vacating the Oct. 2, 2020 opinion while ordering panel rehearing limited to the following issue:

Whether there is substantial evidence to support the jury’s verdict of induced infringement during the time period from January 8, 2008 through April 30, 2011.

Background

GSK’s patent covers a method of using carvedilol, the active ingredient in Coreg®, for the treatment of congestive heart failure. In 2007, the FDA approved Teva’s application to market generic carvedilol tablets. To obtain that approval prior to the expiration of the patent (or prevailing on noninfringement, invalidity, or unenforceability of the patent in litigation), Teva had “carved out” certain patent-protected left ventricular dysfunction uses and only included claims to treat hypertension, i.e., claims not covered by the GSK patent. That original patent expired in 2007, but it was reissued in 2008.

Teva had deliberately omitted congestive heart failure in its label until the FDA made it add that indication in 2011. In accordance with the Order, the February 23 oral argument focued on alleged infringement in the period before the label change, i.e., the period 2008 and 2011. The outcome is expected to turn on associated activities and statements made by Teva that went beyond the approval of the generic drug with skinny labeling, where Teva did not explicitly claim that their product was for the patent-protected uses.




Venue in Hatch-Waxman Cases Limited to District Where ANDA Is Submitted

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit found that in cases brought under the Hatch-Waxman Act, for purposes of determining venue, infringement occurs only in districts where actions related to the submission of an abbreviated new drug application (ANDA) occur, and not in all locations where future distribution of the generic products specified in the ANDA is contemplated. Valeant Pharmaceuticals North American LLC v. Mylan Pharmaceuticals Inc., Case No. 19-2402 (Fed. Cir. Nov. 5, 2020) (O’Malley, J.).

Valeant holds a new drug application for the brand name drug Jublia®, which is used to treat toenail fungal infections. In 2018, Mylan Pharmaceuticals Inc. (MPI) executed an ANDA seeking approval to market a generic version of Jublia®. MPI sent the ANDA from its West Virginia corporate office to the US Food and Drug Administration, located in White Oak, Maryland. The ANDA included a Paragraph IV certification that the Orange-Book-listed patents for Jublia® were invalid, unenforceable or would not be infringed by the ANDA product. After the ANDA was filed, Valeant filed suit in the District of New Jersey against MPI, Mylan Inc. and Mylan Laboratories Ltd. (MLL) pursuant to the Hatch-Waxman Act, alleging infringement of the Orange-Book-listed patents. Valeant also filed an essentially identical lawsuit in the Northern District of West Virginia against the same three defendants. MPI is a West Virginia corporation with a principal place of business in Morgantown, West Virginia. Mylan Inc. is a Pennsylvania corporation with a principal place of business in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania. MLL is an Indian corporation with a principal place of business in Hyderabad, India.

The Mylan entities moved to dismiss the New Jersey litigation, arguing that venue was improper under 28 USC § 1400(b) because none of the Mylan defendants reside or have a regular and established place of business in New Jersey, and the only alleged act of infringement (submission of the ANDA) did not occur in New Jersey. In response, Valeant argued that it was unduly narrow to limit “act of infringement” to the act of submitting the ANDA, and that the court should consider the Mylan entities’ planned future acts, which included acts of infringement in New Jersey. The district court granted the Mylan entities’ motion based on improper venue, finding that the ANDA was submitted from West Virginia and thus venue was proper there. Valeant appealed.

The two issues presented on appeal were the proper venue in Hatch-Waxman cases after TC Heartland v. Kraft Foods, and the proper venue for patent cases brought against foreign entities. Starting with the first issue, the Federal Circuit explained that determining whether venue is proper under § 1400(b) in a district other than the state in which a defendant is incorporated requires determining where the defendant committed acts of infringement. Under the Hatch-Waxman Act, it is an act of infringement to submit an ANDA for a drug claimed in a patent if the purpose of the submission is to obtain approval to engage in commercial activities related to the drug before [...]

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Federal Circuit Restores Induced Infringement Verdict Against Teva

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 [...]

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Article III Standing Required to Appeal Final Decisions by the PTAB

Addressing the issue of Article III standing in an appeal of an inter partes review (IPR) decision, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit dismissed the appeal because the party appealing failed to establish an injury sufficient to confer standing. Argentum Pharms. LLC v. Novartis Pharms. Corp., Case No. 18-2273 (Fed. Cir. Apr. 23, 2020) (Moore, J.).

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Patent Term Extension Only Applies to Approved Product

In a case relating to a patented method for treating multiple sclerosis, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit found that patent term extension (PTE) only applies to methods of using the approved product as defined under the relevant statute, 35 U.S.C. § 156, even if the patent claim is broad enough to cover methods of using additional compounds. Biogen International GMBH v. Banner Life Sciences LLC, Case No. 20-1373 (Fed. Cir. Apr. 20, 2020) (Lourie, J.).

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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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