In a precedential opinion, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit reversed a district court’s denial of a plaintiff’s requested injunction seeking to force a patent challenger to abandon its petitions for inter partes review (IPR). Nippon Shinyaku Co. Ltd. v. Sarepta Therapeutics, Inc., Case No. 2021-2369 (Fed. Cir. Feb. 8, 2022) (Newman, Lourie, Stoll, JJ.)

Nippon Shinyaku and Sarepta Therapeutics executed a mutual confidentiality agreement (MCA) to facilitate discussion of “a potential business relationship relating to therapies for the treatment of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.” The MCA established a mutual covenant not to sue for “any legal or equitable cause of action, suit or claim or otherwise initiate any litigation or other form of legal or administrative proceeding against the other Party . . . in any jurisdiction in the United States or Japan of or concerning intellectual property in the field of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy” during a covenant term. The mutual covenant explicitly “include[d], but [wa]s not limited to, patent infringement litigations, declaratory judgment actions, patent validity challenges before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office or Japanese Patent Office, and reexamination proceedings before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office” (emphasis added). The MCA also included a forum selection clause to govern post-term intellectual property disputes between the parties, which stipulated:

that all Potential Actions arising under U.S. law relating to patent infringement or invalidity, and filed within two (2) years of the end of the Covenant Term, shall be filed in the United States District Court for the District of Delaware and that neither Party will contest personal jurisdiction or venue in the District of Delaware and that neither Party will seek to transfer the Potential Actions on the ground of forum non conveniens (emphasis added).

“Potential actions” were defined as:

any patent or other intellectual property disputes between [Nippon Shinyaku] and Sarepta, or their Affiliates, other than the EP Oppositions or JP Actions, filed with a court or administrative agency prior to or after the Effective Date in the United States, Europe, Japan or other countries in connection with the Parties’ development and commercialization of therapies for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (emphasis added).

The day the covenant term ended, Sarepta filed seven petitions for IPR at the Patent Trial & Appeal Board (Board). Nippon Shinyaku filed suit in the US District Court for the District of Delaware for breach of contract, declaratory judgment of noninfringement and invalidity and patent infringement. Nippon Shinyaku motioned for a preliminary injunction to enjoin Sarepta from proceeding with the IPR petitions and to force Sarepta to withdraw them. The district court denied Nippon Shinyaku under each of the preliminary injunction factors (likelihood of success on the merits, irreparable harm in the absence of extraordinary preliminary relief, balance of harms in its favor and relief being in the public interest).

The district court explained that any irreparable harm arguments fell within Nippon Shinyaku’s contract interpretation arguments, and that Nippon Shinyaku’s balance of hardships and public interest arguments relied on Sarepta’s ability to file [...]

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