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Seeing Eye to Eye: Preliminary Injunction Affirmed for Patent Filed After Accused Product Was Sold

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed the grant of a preliminary injunction, finding that the district court did not abuse its discretion, clearly err in its underlying factual findings or abuse its discretion in setting the scope of the preliminary injunction. BlephEx, LLC v. Myco Indus., Inc., Case Nos. 2021-1149; -1365 (Fed. Cir. Feb. 3, 2022) (Moore, Schall, O’Malley, JJ.)

Myco sells AB Max, a mechanical device with an attached swab used for treating an eye condition known as blepharitis. Myco began marketing AB Max at a trade show in February 2019. One month later, BlephEx filed an application that later issued as a patent. The patent is directed toward cleaning debris from an eye during treatment of ocular disorders, including blepharitis. According to the patent, prior art treatment for blepharitis included at-home treatment where the patient would use a cotton swab, fingertip or scrubbing pad to scrub the eyelid margin in order to remove debris. Patients would often fail to adequately cleanse the eyelid margin, however. The patent’s solution is an electromechanical device with an attached swab for use by an eyecare professional to clean the patient’s eyelid margins.

The day the patent issued, BlephEx sued Myco and its chairman, John R. Choate, alleging that Myco’s AB Max infringed BlephEx’s newly issued patent. BlephEx moved the district court for a preliminary injunction prohibiting Myco from selling, distributing or offering the AB Max for sale. Myco opposed, arguing that a prior art reference (Nichamin) raised a substantial question of invalidity. The district court disagreed with Myco and granted the injunction. The district court noted that to anticipate, a prior art reference must disclose all elements of a claim arranged as in the claim, and Nichamin did not disclose combining the electromechanical applicator device depicted in one embodiment with a swab disclosed in another. The district court also rejected Myco’s argument that the patent examiner failed to consider Nichamin because he did not substantively discuss it during prosecution. The district court further rejected Myco’s obviousness argument as unsupported by expert evidence, finding Myco failed to overcome “the safety concerns of attaching a swab that is soaked in an abrasive to the Nichamin hand-held device.”

After the district court granted the preliminary injunction, Myco moved for reconsideration and argued that the preliminary injunction was overbroad because the AB Max had noninfringing uses. The district court rejected Myco’s argument, finding it was untimely and presented hypothetical noninfringing uses that were “outweighed by evidence that the only actual use of the AB Max was to treat anterior blepharitis,” which would likely infringe the asserted patent. Myco appealed.

The Federal Circuit affirmed the preliminary injunction grant. With respect to Myco’s anticipation argument, the Court found “Myco offers nothing other than attorney argument as to what the highly skilled artisan would do,” and this was insufficient to raise a substantial question of validity. The Court also noted that Myco had “put all of its eggs in the anticipation basket” and fatally failed [...]

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IPR on Written Description? Claims Found Unpatentable Based on Lack of Entitlement to Priority Date

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed a Patent Trial & Appeal Board (Board) ruling, based on a written description analysis, that certain claims were invalid as anticipated by an earlier priority application from the same family. Indivior UK Ltd. v. Dr. Reddy’s Labs. S.A., Case Nos. 20-2073, -2142 (Fed. Cir. Nov. 24, 2021) (Lourie, J.) (Linn, J., concurring in part and dissenting in part).

Indivior’s patent, which issued from a fifth continuation application claiming priority back to 2009, claimed orally dissolvable films with therapeutic agents. Some of the claims recited numeric ranges, such as “about 40% wt to about 60% wt of a water-soluble polymeric matrix.” Instead of a range, one claim recited a specific amount of “about 48.2% wt” of the polymeric matrix. The patent’s specification did not expressly mention the claimed ranges or the specific 48.2% amount, but it did contain tables comprising quantities of polymer from which Indivior contended a person of ordinary skill in the art could calculate the percentage of polymer by weight.

Indivior argued that the polymer weight percentage limitations were supported by the priority application and, therefore, the patent was entitled to that priority date. Dr. Reddy’s contended that since the polymer weight percentage limitations were added later, an intervening patent publication (Myers) was prior art and anticipated the claims. Indivior did not contest that if Myers was prior art, it anticipated the claims. As a result, the Board’s decision on anticipation under 35 U.S.C. §102 turned on the priority analysis which, in turn, hinged on written description. The Board found that the tables disclosed formulations from which the “48.2% wt” could be calculated and, thus, claims reciting that limitation were not anticipated by Myers. However, the Board found that the claimed ranges (i.e., about 40% wt to about 60% wt) were not disclosed in the specification, and those claims were therefore anticipated by Meyers. Indivior appealed the Board’s anticipation finding, and Dr. Reddy’s appealed the no anticipation finding.

The Federal Circuit first analyzed the specification and concluded that there was no written description support for the broader range of “about 40% wt to about 60% wt.” The Court explained that the range was not disclosed in the specification, the specific values of 40% and 60% were not disclosed and there was another “inconsistent” teaching for weights of “at least 25%.” The Court noted that two specific tables in the specification “do not constitute ranges; they are only specific, particular examples. For written description support of a claimed range, more clarity is required.” The Court explained that “[h]ere, one must select several components, add up the individual values, determine the aggregate percentages, and then couple those aggregate percentages with other examples in the [] application to create an otherwise unstated range. That is not a written description of the claimed range.” The Court applied similar analysis in finding lack of written description for other claims reciting a slightly different range. Ultimately, the Court agreed that there was no written [...]

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Size Matters in Obviousness Analysis

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part two Patent Trial and Appeal Board (Board) decisions, finding that the Board erred in its construction of certain claim terms relating to an artificial heart valve that does not require removal of the damaged native heart valve. St. Jude Medical, LLC v. Snyders Heart Valve LLC, Case Nos. 19-2108, -2109, -2140 (Fed. Cir. Oct. 15, 2020) (Taranto, J.).

St. Jude filed two petitions for inter partes review (IPR) of a patent for an artificial heart valve and a system for inserting the valve. Both petitions were instituted by the Board and resulted in final written decisions. In the first decision, the Board found that St. Jude failed to establish unpatentability of the challenged claims, rejecting St. Jude’s contention that all challenged claims were anticipated by and obvious over the Leonhardt prior art reference. In the second decision, the Board found that certain claims were anticipated by the Bessler prior art reference, but rejected St. Jude’s contentions as to all other claims. St. Jude appealed, arguing that the Board erred in the first decision by erroneously construing the term “band” and erred in the second decision by finding that St. Jude failed to prove that a skilled artisan would have made a particular combination of Bessler and the Johnson prior art. Snyders cross-appealed in the second decision as to the claims the Board found were anticipated by Bessler.

The Federal Circuit affirmed the Board’s conclusions in the first decision, finding that not only was the Board’s construction of the term “band” proper, but that it was actually broader than St. Jude’s proposed construction—and that St. Jude expressly accepted the Board’s construction. The Board construed the heart valve band to mean “a structure generally in the shape of a closed strip or ring” (replacing St. Jude’s “circular” with “closed”). In the prior art, Leonhardt discloses a graft material which extends the length of the entire structure. The Federal Circuit agreed with the Board’s finding that Leonhardt’s graft material was “like a sleeve” as opposed to “a closed strip or ring.” St. Jude argued that an ordinary skilled artisan’s understanding of the term “band” does not include a length restriction, that a Leonhardt’s material was just a long band, and that the Board effectively changed its construction of the term. The Federal Circuit, however, was not persuaded by St. Jude’s unlimited-length definition of “band,” instead turning to dictionary definitions that included terms like “thin” and “narrow,” and looking to the patent specification that did not explicitly disclaim any length restrictions. The Court ultimately rejected St. Jude’s arguments, finding that St. Jude should have proposed a claim construction that precluded any limitations on length if it wished to argue such. The Federal Circuit affirmed the Board’s findings as to first decision.

The Federal Circuit next addressed Snyder’s cross-appeal. Snyder disputed the board’s construction of the “size[] and shape[]” of a frame that the patent requires must be inserted [...]

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Product-by-Process Analysis Applies to Method of Treatment Claims

In a case relating to use of recombinant human interferon-β (IFN-β) proteins for the treatment of viral diseases, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled that a “product-by-process” analysis applies even when the product-by-process limitation is nested within a method of treatment claim. Biogen MA Inc. v. EMD Serono, Inc., et al., Case No. 19-1133 (Fed. Cir. Sept. 28, 2020) (Linn, J.).

The claims at issue relate to a method of treating a viral condition, a viral disease, cancers or tumors by administration of a pharmaceutically effective amount of recombinant IFN-β. The claims contained a product-by-process limitation that partially defined the recombinant IFN-β in terms of the method or process by which it is made:

a recombinant polypeptide produced by a non-human host transformed by a recombinant DNA molecule comprising a DNA sequence selected from the group consisting of . . .

It was undisputed that native IFN-β proteins comprise sequences identical to those recited in the claims at issue, and that native IFN-β had been used in the prior art to treat viral conditions. At issue was whether the use of native IFN-β to treat viral conditions anticipated the use of recombinantly produced IFN-β for the claimed treatment.

When considering product-by-process claims, the Federal Circuit has long held that “an old product is not patentable even if it is made by a new process.” See, e.g., Amgen v. Hoffmann-La Roche (Fed. Cir. 2009). The district court granted Biogen’s judgment as a matter of law (JMOL) motion and reversed the jury verdict on anticipation, reasoning that the Amgen analysis did not apply here because the claims were directed to a method of treatment and not a product. Further, the “source limitations” (i.e., the limitations requiring that the IFN-β be produced using recombinant methods) overcame the shortcoming of the prior art. Namely, the unavailability of native IFN-β in sufficient quantity to facilitate practical treatment “lies at the heart of the benefit of this invention” and should be given “force and effect in the anticipation analysis.” Serono appealed.

The Federal Circuit reversed, explaining that the nesting of the product-by-process limitation within a method of treatment claim does not change the proper construction of the product-by-process limitation itself. The Federal Circuit reasoned that “an old method of administration of an old product made by a new process is not novel and cannot be patented.” Further, the Court found that the district court erred in considering the advantages of the recombinant process—the new capability of manufacturing sufficient quantities of IFN-β through recombinant technology—as a reason not to apply the product-by-process analysis. The proper anticipation analysis does not turn on the source of the claimed polypeptide, but on a comparison of the claimed recombinant polypeptide and the prior art native polypeptide.

In granting JMOL, the district court alternatively reasoned that under a product-by-process analysis, the native IFN-β could not anticipate recombinant IFN-β, because the prior art did not disclose that the native and recombinant IFN-β shared an identical three-dimensional structure or that [...]

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Lights Turned Out on Validity Finding

Finding that the Patent Trial and Appeal Board’s (PTAB) anticipation and obviousness decisions resulted from an erroneous interpretation of the claim language and a misunderstanding of case law, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit vacated the PTAB’s decision and remanded for further consideration. Technical Consumer Products v. Lighting Science Group Corp., Case No. 19-1361 (Fed. Cir. Apr. 8, 2020) (Stoll, J.).

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Room Temp Prior Art Has Chilling Effect on Broadening Claim Language

In a case involving a patented method for purifying antibodies, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit determined that the process of chilling a composition to below room temperature could be found both obvious and anticipated by a process that purified that composition at room temperature. Genentech, Inc. v. Hospira, Inc., Case No. 18-1933 (Fed. Cir. Jan. 10, 2020) (Chen, J) (Newman, J, dissenting).

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