Induced Infringement
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Acts Supporting Induced Infringement Allegations Must Occur During Damages Period

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit vacated a damages verdict because the acts supporting the induced infringement finding took place years before the statutory damages period and thus could not support a finding of specific intent to induce infringement. Roche Diagnostics Corporation v. Meso Scale Diagnostics, LLC, Case Nos. 21-1609; -1633 (Fed. Cir. Apr. 8, 2022) (Prost, Taranto, JJ.) (Newman, J., dissenting).

Meso Scale Diagnostics (Meso) was formed in 1995 pursuant to a joint venture agreement between IGEN and Meso Scale Technologies. As part of the agreement, IGEN granted Meso exclusive rights to certain patents. In 1998, Roche acquired Boehringer Mannheim GmbH, an entity that IGEN had previously licensed to develop, use, manufacture and sell ECL assays and instruments in a particular field. As a result of the acquisition, Roche acquired Boehringer’s license rights, including the field-of-use restrictions. In 2003, IGEN and Roche terminated the 1992 agreement and executed a new agreement granting Roche a non-exclusive license to IGEN’s ECL technology in the field of “human patient diagnostics.” As part of the transaction, IGEN transferred its ECL patents to a newly formed company, BioVeris. In 2007, Roche also acquired BioVeris, including the ECL patents. Roche believed the acquisition meant the elimination of the field-of-use restrictions (and hence no patent liability) and began selling its products without regard to those restrictions.

In 2017, Roche sued Meso seeking a declaratory judgment that it did not infringe Meso’s rights arising from the 1995 joint venture license agreement. Meso counterclaimed for infringement. At summary judgment, Roche argued that Meso’s 1995 license didn’t convey the rights Meso asserted. The district court denied Roche’s summary judgment motion, and the parties tried the case to a jury. The jury found that Meso held exclusive license rights to the asserted claims, that Roche directly infringed one patent and induced infringement of two others and that Roche’s infringement was willful. The district court denied Roche’s post-trial motions challenging the infringement verdict and damages award. The district court granted Roche’s motion for judgment as a matter of law (JMOL) on willfulness but denied Meso’s motion to enhance damages. The district court also rendered a non-infringement judgment on three additional patents on the ground that Meso waived compulsory counterclaims. Roche appealed the findings regarding the scope of Meso’s license rights, the induced infringement verdict and the damages award. Meso appealed the district court’s application of the compulsory counterclaim rule.

The Federal Circuit first addressed the scope of Meso’s rights under the 1995 license agreement, which was the only ground on which Roche challenged the direct infringement judgment. The Court found that there was clear testimony from the manager of the joint venture that the work involved in developing the patent that was found to be directly infringed was part of the joint venture. The Court dismissed Roche’s argument that Meso acted in a manner that demonstrated that it had accepted Roche’s rights to the asserted patents, finding that the argument was “made in passing only in a footnote,” [...]

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Federal Circuit Divided on Whether Skinny Labeling Compliance Precludes Inducement or Supports Equitable Estoppel

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit denied a generic drug manufacturer’s petition for en banc review of a panel opinion finding induced infringement liability despite the manufacturer’s adherence to skinny labeling rules, and suggested that equitable estoppel was the appropriate vehicle for considering whether the branded drug manufacturer’s representations to the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) should prevent it from recovering. GlaxoSmithKline LLC v. Teva Pharms. USA, Inc., Case Nos. 18-1976, -2023 (Fed. Cir. Feb. 11, 2022) (per curiam) (Moore, C.J., concurring) (Prost, J., dissenting) (Dyk, J., dissenting) (Reyna, J., dissenting).

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) developed a drug called carvedilol, which it markets (with FDA approval) for three indications: hypertension, left ventricular dysfunction following myocardial infarction (post-MI LVD) and congestive heart failure (CHF). GSK indicated to the FDA that only the CHF indication was under patent. Teva developed a generic version of carvedilol. Commensurate with skinny labeling regulations, Teva carved out from its label the language that GSK indicated was related to the protected CHF indication. Nonetheless, GSK alleged that Teva’s label induced infringement of patents covering the CHF indication. After trial, the jury agreed that the remaining language on Teva’s label would encourage physicians to practice the patented method of treating CHF. Notwithstanding the jury’s verdict, the district court granted judgment as a matter of law that Teva did not induce infringement. GSK appealed, and a divided panel reinstated the verdict (GSK v. Teva). Teva sought panel rehearing, which was denied, and then sought en banc review.

Out of the nine judges who considered the petition for en banc review, six voted to deny it and three would have granted it. All nine judges expressed concern that Teva should be held liable for induced infringement notwithstanding its compliance with the skinny labeling regulations and GSK’s representation to the FDA that the carved-out language was the only language in the label that would implicate its patents on the CHF indication. The judges differed, however, as to why Teva should not be held liable.

Chief Judge Moore’s concurrence, in which Judges Newman, O’Malley, Taranto, Chen and Stoll joined, affirmed the panel majority’s opinion and endorsed its approach of considering all the evidence. According to Judge Moore, any concerns that the result was unfair to Teva, which had complied with the skinny labeling requirements, should be addressed in the district court’s resolution of the still-pending equitable estoppel defense. In Judge Moore’s view, the facts fit squarely within the doctrine of equitable estoppel: GSK’s representations to the FDA could be seen as misleading Teva into believing that GSK would not seek to enforce its patents against the skinny label (which would omit the language GSK identified as relating to the infringing use); Teva could be seen as having relied on GSK’s representations in obtaining its skinny label and bringing its generic carvedilol product to market; and Teva could be seen as having been greatly prejudiced by later being found liable for GSK’s lost profits, which were greatly in [...]

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The Skinny Label That Wasn’t—Federal Circuit Reinstates Induced Infringement Verdict

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit vacated the district court’s grant of judgment as a matter of law (JMOL) of non-infringement where substantial evidence supported the jury’s verdict of induced infringement by an attempted “skinny label” that nonetheless encouraged doctors to engage in a patented use. GlaxoSmithKline LLC v. Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc., Case Nos. 18-1876, -2023 (Fed. Cir. Aug. 5, 2021) (Moore, C.J.) (Prost, J., dissenting).

GlaxoSmithKline LLC (GSK) sells a drug called carvedilol (brand name Coreg®), which is approved for three indications: Hypertension, congestive heart failure (CHF) and left ventricular dysfunction following a myocardial infarction (post-MI LVD). In 2002, Teva filed an abbreviated new drug application (ANDA) for US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval of its generic carvedilol for all three indications. At that time, GSK’s patent on the carvedilol compound was still in force; Teva certified that it would not launch its product until the patent expired in 2007. GSK also had a second patent on a method of treating CHF using carvedilol and a second agent. In 2002, Teva sent GSK a Paragraph IV notice contending that the claims of that patent were invalid over prior art. Rather than sue Teva, GSK applied for reissue of the patent. In 2004, Teva received FDA “tentative approval” for its ANDA “for the treatment of heart failure and hypertension,” which was to become effective at the expiry of the compound patent in 2007.

In January 2008, the method-of-use patent reissued with claims directed to a method of decreasing mortality caused by CHF by administering carvedilol with at least one other therapeutic agent. Just before its launch in 2007, Teva certified to the FDA that its label would not include the indication listed in the Orange Book as covered by the original method-of-use patent (i.e., “decreasing mortality caused by congestive heart failure”), and thus included only the hypertension and post-MI LVD indications. Teva’s press releases stated that its generic carvedilol was “indicated for treatment of heart failure and hypertension.” In 2011, the FDA asked Teva to revise its labeling to be identical with GSK’s. Teva obliged (listing again the CHF indication) and took the position that it did not need to provide certification for the reissued patent because it received final approval of its ANDA before the patent reissued. GSK sued.

GSK won a jury verdict that the challenged patents had not been shown to be invalid and that Teva was liable for induced infringement. At trial, GSK contended—and the jury heard evidence—that post-MI LVD is a form (and fell within the Court’s construction) of CHF such that Teva’s attempted skinny label nonetheless encouraged doctors to engage in a patented use. After trial, however, the district court granted JMOL of non-infringement because the CHF and post-MI LVD indications were different. On appeal, the Federal Circuit found that substantial evidence supported the implied jury, finding that post-MI LVD is a form of CHF such that the label with the post-MI LVD indication induced infringement of the reissued [...]

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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.




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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