The SPC blog

A niche blog dedicated to the issues that arise when supplementary protection certificates (SPCs) extend patents beyond their normal life -- and to the respective positions of patent owners, investors, competitors and consumers. The blog also addresses wider issues that may be of interest or use to those involved in the extension of patent rights. You can email The SPC Blog here

Monday, 25 January 2016

Time for a review of the SPC regime...

The EU is putting out to tender a project to review the fundamentals of the SPC regime. See here for details. The deadline for reply is the 4th February.  This could get quite interesting.

The EU communication states that:

"The study shall evaluate whether a new European SPC title, in its current scope, or broadened with improved provisions, is required to meet the requirements of current and expected innovative market developments in the EU.

With this primary purpose, the study shall evaluate the current SPC framework in terms of its legal efficiency in meeting its stated objectives given the development of directly affected and related product markets. The study shall also evaluate some economic aspects of the current SPC framework.
It shall also suggest whether the existing SPC rules need to be recalibrated given identified limitations.
The results could serve as a basis for an impact assessment for a future proposal by the Commission to create a European SPC title, and complement the recalibration of the existing EU SPC rules".



Tuesday, 19 January 2016

New UK IPO Decision - can you rely on an "end of procedure" communication under Art 3(b)?

For those interested in UKIPO decisions, here is a link to a recent decision (BL O/117/16) from the IPO which looks at 2 specific points:

(i) Can the End of Procedure Communication from the RMS as part of the Decentralised Procedure (DCP) for granting MAs act as means to show that a valid authorisation has been granted for the medicinal product – as required by Art 3(b) of the SPC regulation; and

(ii) can an SPC for a combination, based on the same patent but later MA, be granted when the SPC for the monoproduct has already been granted using an Earlier MA but the same basic patent.  Recent CJEU case law was considered  (Sanofi, C-433/12, and Boehringer, C-577/13) to work out if more than one SPC can be granted based on same patent.

Click here for the decision. 


 If you are the type of person who turns to the end of a novel first to find out "whodunnit" then the answers to these questions are:
(i) No; and 
(ii) Yes

This case arose because  - with only one day left to patent expiry - the patentee only had the "End of Procedure Communication", but not the MA.     

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Pharmaq v Intervet - an English language version of the decision has arrived

The SPC blog is grateful to the attorneys at Thommessen in Norway for providing an unofficial English language translation here (and also on the blog resources page) of the Oslo District Court’s Judgement of 25 August 2015 in the Pharmaq and Intervet matter.   

A summary of the Judgement, reproduced below,  is authored by the advocates Eirik W. Raanes, Camilla Vislie and Magnus Hauge Greaker at Thommessen who represent Intervet Internatinal B.V. in the proceedings.  Thanks to all of them.

They write:

Pharmaq v Intervet International BV: Oslo District Court’s Judgment 25 August 2015
Oslo District Court has delivered a Judgement in the case between Pharmaq AS and Intervet International BV, where the EFTA Court delivered its Advisory Opinion on 9 April 2015 (Case E 16/13 Pharmaq v Intervet International BV). The case inter alia concerns the validity and scope of protection of Intervet’s Norwegian SPC protecting the active ingredient in Intervet’s vaccine against Pancreas Disease in salmon. 

In Oslo District Court’s Judgment 25 August 2015, Pharmaq’s claims for invalidity and non-infringement of the SPC on the basis of Article 2, 3 and 4 of the SPC Regulation, were rejected.

Pharmaq has appealed the Judgement, and the hearing at Court of Appeal is preliminary scheduled to take place in the late autumn of 2016.

Before Oslo District Court, Pharmaq challenged the validity of Intervet’s SPC on the basis of Article 2, 3 and 4 of the SPC Regulation. Pharmaq also submitted an alternative claim for non-infringement on the basis of Article 4 of the SPC Regulation.

Article 2 of the SPC Regulation:
With respect to the validity challenge under Article 2 Pharmaq submitted that Intervet’s vaccine was placed on the market prior to being granted a market authorisation in accordance with Directive 2001/82/EC. In support of this challenge Pharmaq invoked that Intervet between 2003 and 2011 had delivered its vaccine to fish farmers in Norway and Ireland under Special Approval Exemptions and AR16 licenses.

A provisional MA was granted for the vaccine in the UK in 2005. An ordinary MA was granted for the vaccine in Norway in 2011. Pharmaq submitted that the UK PMA from 2005 could not be considered to be a marketing authorisation within the meaning of Article 2 of the SPC Regulation, which would have the consequence that Intervet’s supply of the vaccine under Special Approval Exemptions and AR16 licenses subsequent to the grant of the UK PMA would be relevant for the assessment under Article 2 of the SPC Regulation.

Oslo District Court started by concluding that the UK PMA was the first MA granted within the EEA area for the purpose of Article 2 of the SPC. This had the consequence that only events that took place prior to 6 May 2005 (the date the UK PMA was granted) was relevant for the assessment of whether the vaccine was placed on the market within the meaning of Article 2 of the SPC Regulation.

Further, Oslo District Court held that it is only authorisations granting full market access that entail that a product has been “placed on the market” within the meaning of Article 2 of the SPC Regulation. According to Oslo District Court, this interpretation of Article 2 was supported by the wording of the SPC Regulation, the purpose of the SPC Regulation and the system which it is a part. The Court referred to that the objective of the SPC Regulation is to compensate the patent holder for the time that has passed between the filing of the patent application and the completion of the regulatory process for obtaining a marketing authorisation, i.e. in other words the SPC Regulation is intended to compensate for lack of full market access. The Court went on pointing out that the term “placed on the market”, or similar, in the SPC Regulation is only used in connection with marketing authorisations pursuant to Directive 2001/82 (Veterinary Medicinal Products Directive) and that under the Veterinary Medicinal Products Directive it is only marketing authorisations that allow for a product to be “placed on the market”.

With respect to the CJEU’s Judgement in the Cases C-195/09 Synthon and C-427/09 Generics, that Pharmaq had relied on, Oslo District Court noted that those cases concerned products that had been granted full market access and consequently were not comparable with the case at hand.

Pharmaq also submitted that the Special Approval Exemptions and AR16 licenses only could be considered as permissions that did not allow for “placing on the market” if they were granted on the basis of national rules that implement Article 8 of the Veterinary Medicinal Products Directive correctly. The Court, however, rejected this argument and held that the relevant question rather was whether the Special Approval Exemptions and AR16 licenses in legal terms conferred a market access that corresponds with the rights a market authorisation affords. Oslo District Court noted that the Advisory Opinion of the EFTA Court must be interpreted in the light of other sources of EU/EEA law and must be understood such that the relationship between the Special Approval Exemptions/AR16 licenses and the Veterinary Medicinal Products Directive was not decisive.

Oslo District Court found that strong policy concerns supported its interpretation of Article 2 of the SPC Regulation. In the Court’s view it would counteract supplies under limited authorisations according to Articles 7 to 11 of the Veterinary Medicinal Products Directive if such authorisations were to disqualify the product from SPC protection. This consideration also indicated that it should not be of significance whether a limited authorisation is granted within the framework of the Veterinary Medicinal Products Directive, because it is not possible for manufacturers to know whether the authorities have complied with the Directive.

Under the concrete assessment of the Special Approval Exemptions and AR16 licenses, Oslo District Court found that there were decisive differences between the market access under a marketing authorisation and the market access on the basis of the Special Approval Exemptions/AR16 licenses. The Court inter alia pointed out that the Special Approval Exemptions/AR16 licenses only could be granted in special situations and at the authorities’ discretion, and that the permissions were limited both with respect to volume and time. In the Court’s view there are thus significant qualitative and quantitative differences between Special Approval Exemptions/AR16 licenses and marketing authorisations, since the latter gives the holder an unlimited right to market and sell the product, subject to the restrictions that apply generally to medicinal products.  

Based on this the Court concluded, noting that it had not been in doubt, that the authorisations prior to 6 May 2005, could not entail that the product had been “placed on the market” within the meaning of Article 2 of the SPC Regulation.

Article 3:
Pharmaq submitted that the Special Approval Exemptions in any event amounted to marketing authorisations within the meaning of Article 3 of the SPC Regulation, and that Intervet’s SPC therefore was granted in breach of Article 3(d) and 7(1) of the SPC Regulation.

Oslo District Court rejected this submission, noting inter alia that a marketing authorisation within the meaning of Article 3 of The SPC Regulation must, as in other provisions of the Regulation, be understood as a marketing authorisation granted in accordance with Veterinary Medicinal Products Directive, and that the Special Approval Exemptions were not such authorisations.

Article 4:
In Intervet’s marketing authorisation the active ingredient in the vaccine was identified as “Inactivated Salmon Pancreatic Disease Virus Strain F93-125”. The product description of Intervet’s SPC comprised: 

“Salmonid pancreatic disease virus that, when injected intraperitoneally at a titre of 103.5 TCID50 into Atlantic salmon post-smolts held in sea water at 14°C causes the fish to develop symptoms of pancreatic disease, wherein
a) said virus is the virus strain as deposited at ECACC under Deposit number V94090731 or closely related strains which share similar genotypic and/or phenotypic characteristics to said deposited virus strain and
b) said virus reacts serologically with convalescent anti-FPDV antiserum or antiserum raised against the deposited virus strain V94090731 and
c) said virus is in an inactive form.”

Pharmaq submitted that the SPC was granted in breach of Article 4 of the SPC Regulation, since this provision required that the SPC should be confined to the strain identified in the marketing authorisation. In the alternative Pharmaq submitted that the SPC did not cover their virus strain (ALV 405).

On this topic Oslo District Court split into a majority, consisting of the legal judge and one expert lay judge, and a minority, consisting of one expert lay judge.

The majority held that the SPC was not granted in breach of Article 4 of the SPC Regulation and that a vaccine based on Pharmaq’s virus strain would infringe the SPC.

The majority referred to the opinion of the Advocate General in case C-392/97 Farmitalia, where the Advocate General emphasized that the meaning of the term “product” in the SPC Regulation could not be determined based only on textual grounds. The majority found it difficult to determine the meaning of the product definition without also considering the purpose of the SPC Regulation, because a literal interpretation based on the marketing authorisation would, for a vaccine that is based on inactivated whole-virus particles, imply that it would be possible for a competitor to make a new vaccine based on a different isolate of an identical or similar virus, without infringing the SPC. In the majority’s view this seemed to give an unreasonable result.

The majority went on by ascertaining that case law provided support for a purpose oriented interpretation. The Court inter alia referred to case C-392/97 Farmitalia and the EFTA Court’s Advisory opinion.

On this backdrop the majority concluded that Article 4 of the SPC Regulation permits that a SPC covers other strains than identified in the marketing authorisation, provided that the other strain can be said to constitute the same active ingredient with a similar prophylactic effect as the strain identified in the marketing authorisation.

On the basis of this criterion the majority continued with a comparison of Intervet’s and Pharmaq’s virus strains. Based on a comprehensive material, inter alia studies, submitted by the Parties, the majority concluded that the differences between the virus strains F93-125 and ALV 405 are insignificant and that they thus must be considered to be the same active ingredient. Further, the majority concluded that both strains may be used in the same prophylactic field. Thus, it was held that the SPC was valid and that Pharmaq’s virus strain was covered by the SPC’s scope of protection.  

The minority interpreted Article 4 of the SPC Regulation such that the product description of the SPC must be confined to the strain that is identified in the marketing authorisation, and thus held that the SPC granted to Intervet is invalid.  
Once again, Alice de Pastors has kindly provided a copy of her annual SPC report, which includes statistics on SPC applications in Europe between 1991 and December 2014.  SPC News 29 – September 2014 is available to read here.

Thanks, Alice!

Thursday, 10 December 2015

New CJEU referral - C572/15 - duration of an SPC issued under national law

In the Eurovision contest of CJEU SPC referrals it is maximum points to Estonia for the referral that is C-572/15, on the topic of Article 21 of Regulation 469/2009.   The two referred questions are below, with Q1 on the topic of the transitional provisions and Q2 raising the interesting issue of possible incompatibility with EU law in the event that Q1 is answered in the affirmative.... 

The following questions have been referred for a preliminary ruling:

  1. Must Article 21(2) of Regulation No 469/2009 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 6 May 2009 concerning the supplementary protection certificate for medicinal products (codified version) be interpreted as shortening the duration of a supplementary protection certificate issued in a Member State which was issued under national law before the accession of the State in question to the European Union and whose duration in relation to an active substance, as stated in the supplementary protection certificate, would be longer than 15 years from the time when the first marketing authorisation in the Union was granted for a medicinal product consisting of the active substance or containing it?

  1. If the answer to the first question is in the affirmative, is Article 21(2) of Regulation No 469/2009 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 6 May 2009 concerning the supplementary protection certificate for medicinal products (codified version) compatible with European Union law, in particular the general principles of European Union law on the protection of acquired rights, the principle of the prohibition of retroactive effect of law, and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union?

If you have any thoughts, the UKIPO has set a deadline of 22 December 2015 to send them in to policy@ipo.gov.uk.  


Thursday, 26 November 2015

Farewell

Little did I realise, when we started The SPC Blog back in June 2008, that I would be saying goodbye to a thriving weblog with an email subscription list of nearly 2,100 – a blog that has also attracted well in excess of 800,000 pageviews and which has supported highly popular annual seminars in which people from all sectors of the pharma and agrochemical patent term extension world have gathered to share their thoughts, their experiences and, all too often, their frustration with the rulings of the Court of Justice of the European Union.

Anyway, it is with a feeling of great happiness that The SPC Blog has been so popular – and so useful – that I take my leave of it and step down as I take the retirement route. 

Do please continue to give the blog your every support and help to keep it as the valuable resource which it has become!


Friday, 20 November 2015

Supreme Court affirms IP High Court's relaxation of the PTE system in Japan

Earlier this month The SPC Blog was delighted to host "Patent term extension in Japan: a guest post", here, by Dr Seigen Tsukuda (Ohno & Partners, Japan).  Here's a sequel, bringing some fresh news.
This is a quick notice that, on 17 November 2015, the Supreme Court rendered a decision rejecting the JPO's appeal against Intellectual Property High Court (IPHC) Grand Panel decision issued in May 2014. As a general principle, the Supreme Court decision can be outlined thuss:
In order to reject an application for a patent term extension (PTE) based on a prior authorization, in view of category and subject of patented invention(s) for which the application is submitted, a prior authorization and a new authorization shall be compared in terms of elements examined for authorization, such elements being relevant to substantial identity as a pharmaceutical product, and it must be established that the prior authorization encompasses the new authorization in terms of an authorization for production and sales of a pharmaceutical product.
The decision applied the above principle to the present facts as follows:
In the context of product patents directed to ingredients of pharmaceutical products, "elements examined for authorization relevant to substantial identicalness as a pharmaceutical product" are components, quantity, administration, dosage amount, effect and efficacy. Administration and dosage amount of the previously authorized pharmaceutical product are 
"... intravenous drip infusion of 5mg/kg (body weight) per dose or 10mg/kg (body weight) per dose ... administration interval is 2-week or longer ...", 
while those of the newly authorized pharmaceutical product are 
"... intravenous drip infusion of 7.5mg/kg (body weight) per dose ... administration interval is 3-week or longer ...". 
Further, production and sales of the subject pharmaceutical product for a combination therapy of XELOX therapy and bevacizumab therapy newly became available by such new authorization. Based on the facts described above, it is not established that the prior authorization encompasses the new authorization in terms of an authorization for production and sales of a pharmaceutical product. Therefore, the decision of appeal board of the JPO is not legitimate, and the IPHC Grand Panel decision is approved.
As can be seen from the above, it seems that the Supreme Court accepted almost the whole framework of the IPHC Grand Panel decision establishing that a PTE may be allowed based on any substantially new authorization, so long as the subject patent covers the newly authorized pharmaceutical product.

Upon the Supreme Court decision, the JPO announced on 18 November 2015 that the JPO starts revising its PTE examination guidelines and stops examinations for PTEs until a publication of the revised guidelines. It is expected that under the revised guidelines, applications for PTE shall be more easily allowed. Further, while the Supreme Court decision is silent, as IPHC Grand Panel decision mentioned in obiter dictum, scope of an extended patent may become narrower than previously expected. It is therefore recommended that, whenever a new pharmaceutical product is authorized in Japan, an application for a PTE shall be considered for any patent covering the new pharmaceutical product

In this respect it should be noted that, when a patentee wishes to obtain a PTE, if an authorization is not delivered by 6 months and one day before the expiration date of a subject patent, a provisional application must be submitted by that day, i.e. 6 months and one day before the expiration date (Patent Act Article 67-2-2, paragraph 1), otherwise a non-provisional application must be submitted within three months from the delivery of an authorization (Patent Act Article 67-2, paragraph 2 and Implementing Regulation of Patent Act Article 3).

Further, in our previous post, it was mentioned that 
"If the patentee may wish to obtain a PTE corresponding to a dependent claim in the future, it is recommended to file a divisional application to establish a patent specifically directed to the invention of the dependent claim, describing the invention as an independent claim". 
Under the new examination guidelines, PTE may become available without filing such divisional applications.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

"SPC Law and Practice 2015: All you need to know": PowerPoints now available

With apologies for the slight delay, The SPC Blog can now proudly give you the original (or ever so slightly tweaked) PowerPoint presentations attached to last week's seminar.


We're trying to sort out the videos and will get back to you soon. Hang on in there!

Monday, 9 November 2015

Patent term extension in Japan: a guest post

Here's a guest post from Dr Seigen Tsukuda (Ohno & Partners, Japan, right) on patent term extensions in that important jurisdiction.  Our thanks go both to Dr Tsukuda and to Darren Smyth (EIP)) for procuring it on our behalf and giving it the benefit of his editorial scrutiny. 
  Introduction            
  Patent systems differ from nation to nation, and the practice relating to patent term extension (PTE) shows an extreme example of such variation.  The Japanese PTE system is quite distinct from those of Europe and United States.  Significant features of the present Japanese PTE procedure are as follows.
(1) Although it is required that an authorized pharmaceutical product falls within the scope of a claim of the patent, it is NOT required that the claim recites (specifies) any active ingredient.  Thus, patents relating to drug delivery systems (DDS), for example, can be extended in principle.  
(2) Multiple extensions are available for a single patent (but the term of extension may not exceed 5 years). 
(3) Multiple patents belonging to the same patentee can be extended based on a single authorization.  
  The idiosyncrasy of the Japanese system has increased even further recently.  In order to elucidate the current situation, let us look briefly into the Patent Act provisions and the history of Japanese PTE practice.  
  Relevant provisions of Japanese Patent Act            
  Article 67 paragraph 2 provides conditions for PTE, mentioning "Where there is a period during which the patented invention is unable to be worked because ... disposition [authorization] ... is necessary to obtain for the working of the patented invention, the duration of the patent right may be extended ..., by a period not exceeding 5 years."            
  Art 68-2 provides effects of PTE, i.e. "Where the duration of a patent right is extended ..., such patent right shall not be effective against any act other than the working of the patented invention for the product which was the subject of the disposition [authorization] ... which constituted the reason for the registration of extension (where the specific usage of the product is prescribed by the disposition [authorization], the product used for that usage)." [Japanese Patent Act]
  PTE examination practice at JPO until 2011            
  Conventionally, the JPO assumed that "product" and "usage" recited in Article 68-2 should be interpreted as "active ingredient(s)" and "effect and efficacy" respectively.  Based on this assumption, the JPO further interpreted Article 67 paragraph 2 as meaning that a PTE can only be based on an authorization that is "new" in terms of a combination of "active ingredient(s)" and "effect and efficacy".  For example, let us assume a case where an authorization is obtained for a pharmaceutical product using a new DDS technology, and the DDS technology is protected by a patent.  In this case, according to the JPO practice, the patent could NOT be extended so long as there is a previous authorization corresponding to a pharmaceutical product whose active ingredient, effect and efficacy are the same for those of the newly authorized pharmaceutical product.  It is not relevant whether the previously authorized pharmaceutical product falls within or outside the claims of the subject patent (situation was similar to MIT case [C-431/04]).            
  According to Article 67 paragraph 2, a PTE may be allowed "when there is a period during which the patented invention is unable to be worked".  Under the Japanese Pharmaceutical Affairs Act, it is not permitted to market a pharmaceutical product of new formulation or new dosage until a new corresponding authorization is obtained, even if a previously authorized pharmaceutical product contained the same active ingredient and was authorized for the same effect and efficacy.  It could thus be argued that there is "a period during which the patented invention is unable to be worked".  Accordingly, since late 1990s, new-drug developers have been struggling in courts arguing that the above JPO's practice is not legitimate.  
  Supreme Court decision in April 2011            
  Finally, on 28 April 2011, the Supreme Court gave a decision determining that the above JPO practice is not legitimate [H21(Gyo-hi)326: Takeda v Commissioner of Patents].  According to the decision, an application for a PTE cannot be rejected based on a previous authorization if a pharmaceutical product authorized by the previous authorization does not fall within the scope of any of the claims of the subject patent for which PTE is applied.  The decision opened a door for PTE of a patent protecting a new formulation, such as DDS drugs. [H21(Gyo-hi)326
  Revised examination guidelines in December 2011            
  Forced by the Supreme Court decision, the JPO revised its examination guidelines for PTE in December 2011.  The revised guidelines are fairly complicated, but could be summarized as follows.  An application for a PTE based on a new authorization for a new pharmaceutical product cannot be rejected if an old pharmaceutical product authorized by a previous authorization falls outside the scope of all of the claims of the subject patent.  On the other hand, if the old pharmaceutical product falls within the scope of a broadest claim of the subject patent, the application for PTE must be rejected so long as the old and new pharmaceutical products do not differ in term of the elements described in the broadest claim of the subject patent.            
  For example, assume a case in which a new pharmaceutical product is a new formulation including active ingredient A and excipient polymers B and C2, where the old pharmaceutical product was a formulation including active ingredient A and excipient polymers B and C1.  In this case, a PTE will not be allowed if an independent claim of the subject patent simply recites active ingredient A, or a combination of active ingredient A and excipient polymer B.  On the other hand, a PTE may be allowed if the independent claim of the subject patent recites a combination of active ingredient A and excipient C (C1 and C2 are examples of C).            
  There remained a question of whether such revised guidelines (to refuse a PTE if the independent claim only recites active ingredient A, or a combination of active ingredient A and excipient polymer B) are in accordance with Article 67 paragraph 2, because marketing of the new pharmaceutical product (A+B+C2) is not allowed under authorization for the old pharmaceutical product (A+B+C1).  It may be possible to argue that "there is a period during which the patented invention is unable to be worked" in respect of the pharmaceutical product (A+B+C2) until a new authorization is obtained for the new pharmaceutical product (A+B+C2), even though the patented invention was able to be worked in respect of the old pharmaceutical product (A+B+C1).  New-drug developers again fought in courts questioning whether JPO's revised practice is legitimate or not. [Revised Guidelines]  
  Intellectual Property High Court (IPHC) Grand Panel decision in May 2014         
  On 30 May 2014, the Grand Panel of IPHC rendered a decision determining that the revised examination guidelines are not legitimate [2013(Gyo-Ke)10195: Genentech v Commissioner of Patents].  According to the decision, if an authorization is new in terms of a combination of components (not only active ingredients), quantity, administration, dosage amount, effect and efficacy, the application for a PTE shall not be refused based on a prior authorization.  This means that a PTE may be allowed based on any substantially new authorization, so long as the subject patent covers the newly authorized pharmaceutical product.            
  The decision also mentioned in obiter dictum that, during the extended period, the patent will cover only a drug within both the scope of claim of the patent and the scope of the authorized pharmaceutical product in respect of “components (not only active ingredients), administration, dosage amount, effect and efficacy”, and equivalents or substantially identical products thereof.  Since the PTE system was established in 1988 in Japan, there has been no legal precedent determined in ratio decidendi what is the claim scope of an extended patent. [2013(Gyo-Ke)10195] 
  Practical suggestions            
  As mentioned above, under the current examination guidelines, a PTE is allowed on a patent-by-patent basis, and examination will be performed based on the broadest claim of a patent.  In a case where a prior authorized pharmaceutical product falls within the broadest claim and there is a reason for rejection with respect to the broadest claim, a PTE is not allowed even if the old pharmaceutical product falls outside a narrower dependent claim (and the new pharmaceutical product falls within the dependent claim).  However, if a divisional application including the dependent claim is filed to separate the claim from the independent broadest claim of the parent, and a secondary patent is obtained, a PTE may be allowed for such secondary patent under the current examination guidelines, based on the authorization for the new pharmaceutical product.  If the patentee may wish to obtain a PTE corresponding to a dependent claim in the future, it is recommended to file a divisional application to establish a patent specifically directed to the invention of the dependent claim, describing the invention as an independent claim.         
  It should also be kept in mind that the current examination guidelines have been disapproved by the Grand Panel decision and the situation is quite unstable.  The JPO appealed against the Grand Panel decision, and the case is still pending at the Supreme Court.  It is expected that a decision will be given within a few years.  The JPO's practice has not substantially been changed since December 2011, but it is quite possible the guidelines will be revised again after a new Supreme Court decision.  If the Supreme Court affirms the Grand Panel decision, then a PTE will become more easily allowed, but the scope of protection provided by an extended patent will become more restricted.  In 2011, the Supreme Court decision stopped all PTE examination at the JPO until the examination guidelines were revised and fixed.  It is therefore recommended that, whenever a new pharmaceutical product is authorized in Japan, an application for a PTE shall be considered for any patent covering the new pharmaceutical product, even if the PTE might appear unallowable based on the present guidelines. 

Friday, 6 November 2015

Repercussions of Seattle additional duration: an article

It is no secret that our good friend Mike Snodin (Park Grove IP) has taken a keen interest in the Seattle Genetics reference to the Court of Justice of the European Union (Case C-471/14), so no readers of this weblog will be surprised that he has some further thoughts about this ruling which he is happy to share with us.  As Mike explains: 
I have a particular reason to welcome the judgement in Seattle Genetics.  This is because it validates an argument that I first proposed in an article published in Scrip Regulatory Affairs in October 2011 (discussed on the SPC Blog here), namely that the duration of SPC protection should (where relevant) be calculated upon the basis of the notification date of a "centralised" Marketing Authorisation -- and not the (earlier) date of the European Commission's decision to issue the MA.
 It is gratifying that the CJEU has validated another novel concept that I devised (the first being zero / negative term SPCs -– see this RAJ Pharma article from July 2007 and this SPC Blog post from 2011). However, it is disappointing to note that the CJEU's judgement in Seattle Genetics solely addresses the issue of SPC duration but does not comment upon the interpretation of other provisions of the SPC legislation that also rely upon the precise date ascribed to a MA.
With this in mind, I have published an article that, while noting the additional duration that should be awarded to certain SPCs (perhaps up to about 40% of all SPC applications for medicinal products), also discusses some potentially broader implications with respect to:-       the deadline for filing some SPCs;-       determining the date of certain national MAs; and-       determining the MA date for the purposes of Articles 3(b) and 3(d) (which are two of the four key provisions that determine entitlement to SPC protection).  Finally, the article mentions the battles that companies may face when trying to persuade certain national patent offices and courts to correct (by lengthening) the duration of SPCs already granted -- and points to a recent decision (discussed on the SPC Blog here) that may help to win those battles. My latest article may be viewed by clicking here. With two validated concepts under my belt, I am now keen to complete my hat-trick.  Indeed, there may already be an opportunity for this.  This is because another concept that I proposed (again relating to SPC duration, but this time based upon the Euratom treaty), although rejected by the UK IPO in the Genzyme case, would appear to be eminently arguable in the light of the CJEU’s decision in Merck Canada (C-555/13, see this Scrip Regulatory Affairs article from June 2014, as discussed on the SPC Blog here).  However, with only one additional day at stake for less than half of all SPCs in a handful of countries, I doubt that there will be sufficient commercial incentive for any applicant to vigorously pursue the relevant arguments.  Having said that, this is one occasion on which I would be delighted to be proved wrong!