EFTA COURTThis request was received from the Oslo District Court on 23 July. The deadline for written observations from Governments and relevant institutions is Monday, 13 October 2014.
Request for an Advisory Opinion from the EFTA Court by Oslo tingrett dated 16 June 2014 in the case of Pharmaq AS v Intervet International BV (Case E-16/14)
1. Concerning Article 2 of the SPC Regulation, has a product been placed on the market as a medicinal product in the EEA before it has been granted marketing authorisation in accordance with the procedure for administrative authorisation laid down in Directive 81/851/EEC (or Directive 2001/82 EEC) when delivery of the product has taken place in accordance with
(i) “special approval exemptions” granted by the State Medicines Agency to veterinarians and fish health biologists pursuant to Section 3-6 or 3-7 of the Norwegian Regulation of 22 December 1999, alternatively Sections 2-6 or 2-7 of the Norwegian Regulation of 18 December 2009, or2. If question 1 is answered in the affirmative, is such a product outside the scope of the SPC Regulation and is an SPC granted on the basis of such a product therefore invalid?
(ii) what are known as “AR 16 licences” granted by the Irish Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine pursuant to the Irish Statutory Instrument No 144/2007 European Communities (Animal Remedies) Regulations 2007 part III “Exceptional authorisation”, point 16?
3. Concerning the interpretation of Article 2 of the SPC Regulation, should a marketing authorisation granted for a veterinary medicinal product pursuant to Article 26(3) of Directive 2001/82 be deemed to constitute an administrative authorisation pursuant to Directive 81/851 (or Directive 2001/82) within the meaning of Article 2?
4. (a) Do special approval exemptions pursuant to Section 3-6 or 3-7 of the Norwegian Medicines Regulations of 1999 (FOR-199-12-22-1559) or Section 2-6 or 2-7 of the Norwegian Medicines Regulations of 2009 (FOR-2009-12-18-1839) constitute valid authorisation to place the product on the market as a medicinal product within the meaning of Article 3(b)?
5. When the medicinal product is a virus vaccine, can the scope of protection under the SPC cover not only the specific strain of the virus that is included in the medicinal product and covered by the basic patent, but also other strains of the virus that are covered by the basic patent?
In answering this question, is it of significance whether
a) such other strains have an equivalent therapeutic effect to the virus strain included in the medicinal product or whether the therapeutic effect is not immediately equivalent?6. If an SPC has been granted with a product definition that is not strictly limited to the specific strain of the virus authorised to be placed on the market as a medicinal product,
b) a medicinal product based on such other strain will have to be the subject of a separate marketing authorisation with requirements for documentation of safety and effect?
a) will such an SPC be valid, or
b) will the SPC be valid; such, however, that the scope of protection pursuant to Article 4 does not extend beyond the specific virus strain authorised to be placed on the market as a medicinal product?
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
Wednesday, 20 August 2014
Directive 2001/82 [on the Community Code Relating to Veterinary Medicinal Products] or Directive 2001/83 [on the Community Code Relating to Medicinal Products for Human Use], granted for many consecutive years, constitute a de facto marketing authorisation, thereby disqualifying the product in question from applying for a SPC?
If you happen to have information on this topic, I would greatly appreciate it if you could share it with me".Well, readers -- this is your chance! Do please post any useful reading suggestions below and let's see what we can come up with.
Monday, 18 August 2014
The post is quite long and a bit complex, so we thank Michael for getting this case online while packing for his holiday. That's enthusiasm for you!
Friday, 8 August 2014
The 45 page ruling can be read in its entirety here.
Thursday, 7 August 2014
"I would like to report a recent case before the Supreme Administrative Court of Bulgaria regarding an SPC application for Atripla, a drug for treatment of HIV infection.
“a combination of a compound of Formula I or Formula II according to claim 2 with a nucleoside analog having biological activity against HIV reverse transcriptase”.
Although efavirenz was found to be a compound of Formula I and emtizitabine -- a nucleoside analogue -- the court held that the claim envisaged only combinations of two active ingredients, while the applied product consisted of three. Further, the court confirmed that the third ingredient, tenofovir disoproxil fumarate, was also outside the scope of the claim as it was a nucleotide rather than a nucleoside analogue. Although after its intake it was transformed in the human body into a nucleoside, at the time of composing the claimed product it lacked such characteristics. As a result the Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of first instance and instead upheld the decision of the Patent Office to reject the application of Merck Sharp & Dohme Inc.If you can cope with the original Bulgarian text of the judgment, Dimitar has kindly provided a link to it here.
In its detailed analysis the Supreme Court touched on a number of important topics of the SPC domain. It provided guidance on the methods of interpretation of patent claims, on the applicability of the infringement test and the significance of the Medeva and Eli Lilly decisions. It also commented on decisions of other jurisdictions which had been put forward by the parties in support of their arguments. Therefore, in my opinion the Atripla case resulted in a milestone decision of the Bulgarian case law with respect to the application of the SPC Regulation.
Monday, 4 August 2014
"the term for patent protection of medicinal and plant products (which are subjects of marketing authorizations), can be prolonged up to 5 years depending on the time spent on completing the marketing authorization process (equivalent to SPC)".This is unlikely to be done before all current EU Member States have approved the Association Agreements, but it's at least a step in the right direction.
Wednesday, 30 July 2014
More details, and registration instructions, will be posted as soon as possible.
Monday, 21 July 2014
Lilly v HGS – Article 3(a) SPC Regulation – Guidance on obtaining SPCs based on functional claims
Article 3(a) of Regulation 469/2009 requires that a product which is the subject of an application for an SPC must be “protected by a basic patent in force”. This was held by the Court of Justice of the European Union (the “CJEU”) in Medeva (Case C-322/10 [noted on this weblog here]) to mean that the active ingredient must be “specified” in the wording of the claims.
In October 2012 the Patents Court for England and Wales (Warren J) in Eli Lilly and Company Ltd v Human Genome Sciences, Inc. referred further questions to the CJEU regarding the interpretation of Article 3(a). In December 2013 the CJEU handed down its judgment in the Lilly case (C-493/12), holding that it is not necessary for the active ingredient to be identified in the claims of the patent by a structural formula. Article 3(a) does not, in principle, preclude the grant of an SPC where the active ingredient is covered by a functional claim provided that “the claims relate, implicitly but necessarily and specifically” to the active ingredient in question.
The case returned to the Patents Court (Warren J) in May and June 2014. The judgment provides important guidance as to the interpretation of the CJEU’s decision and the circumstances in which SPCs may be obtained for products based on claims defined in functional terms.
Human Genome Sciences, Inc. (“HGS” – now owned by GlaxoSmithKline) is the proprietor of European Patent (UK) No 0 939 804 which relates to and claims a novel protein called Neutrokine-α and antibodies which bind specifically to it. The patent has been held to be valid by the UK Courts (including the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court) and the Technical Board of Appeal of the European Patent Office. Of particular importance is the wording of claim 13 which claims:
“An isolated antibody or portion thereof that binds specifically to (a) the full length Neutrokine-α polypeptide … or (b) the extracellular domain of the Neutrokine-α polypeptide …”.Eli Lilly and Company Ltd (“Lilly”) wishes to market, in due course, a product containing an antibody (known as tabalumab) that binds specifically to Neutrokine-α. Lilly has not yet received a marketing authorisation (“MA”) for tabalumab.
Lilly issued a claim against HGS seeking a declaration from the Patents Court that any SPC granted to HGS in respect of the patent and based upon any MA for tabalumab would be invalid.
Lilly’s case was that tabalumab is not “protected by” the patent for the purposes of Article 3(a) as tabalumab is not specified in the wording of the claims. That, Lilly submitted, would require a structural definition of the active ingredient in the claims of the patent.
Lilly had originally sought to argue a further ground on which any SPC would be invalid, namely that HGS would not be able to obtain an SPC based on the HGS Patent and an MA held by a third party (Lilly) – the “Third Party Issue”. Lilly discontinued this aspect of the claim before the CJEU hearing in September 2013.
HGS’s case was that tabalumab fell within the scope of protection of claim 13 (as interpreted by section 125 of the UK Patents Act, Article 69 of the European Patent Convention (“EPC”) and the Protocol on the Interpretation of Article 69) and that that claim related “implicitly but necessarily and specifically” to tabalumab, as required by the CJEU.
The judgment of Warren J
As with other decisions of the CJEU in relation to the SPC Regulation, regrettably the guidance given is not clear. This is reflected by the fact that both Lilly and HGS had applied to the Patents Court for judgment in their favour on the basis of the CJEU’s decision. The Court also observed that “one thing the [CJEU decision] does not give is the clear guidance which the reference was designed to obtain” (paragraph 4).
In dismissing Lilly’s claim for declaratory relief, the Court explains (paragraph 67) that the CJEU has clearly held that functional definitions can, in principle, be sufficient to bring an active ingredient within the protection of a basic patent. This is on the condition that the “claims relate implicitly but necessarily and specifically” to the active ingredient.
The Court held at paragraph 70 that the correct reading of the CJEU’s judgment required an application of the relevant rules (i.e. Article 69 EPC or Section 125 Patents Act 1977) to ascertain the extent of the invention and what the claims relate to. If the active ingredient in question is covered by the claims, it is protected for the purposes of Article 3(a) – subject to a proviso.
This proviso is explained at paragraph 66 of the Judgment and is necessary to reflect the approach of the CJEU in Medeva in relation to products containing combinations of active ingredients. A product is not protected within the meaning of Article 3(a) solely by virtue of a claim containing general wording that extends the claim beyond its principle scope (such as “comprises”). However, in the absence of such extending words, the Court held that “the claims have a focused scope and the question is simply whether the product falls within the scope of the claims” (paragraph 66). Lilly had conceded during the course of these proceedings that tabalumab falls within the scope of claim 13 of the patent, and the proviso did not apply since there were no extending words. Tabalumab was therefore “protected by” the patent within the meaning of Article 3(a).
Finally, the Court considered (at paragraphs 44-54 of the judgment) that paragraph 43 of the CJEU’s decision, which relates to whether a patent owner has made any investment in the research leading to the MA, is more relevant to the discontinued Third Party Issue than to the test under Article 3(a). However, the Court made clear that SPCs are intended to be available without discrimination for the type, or stage, of research leading to the grant of the basic patent.
The judgment provides welcome guidance on the interpretation of Article 3(a) and confirms the availability of SPCs for products based on functional claim language (such as for antibodies defined by their binding target). On Friday Lilly was been granted leave to appeal, so the issues will be reviewed further in due course.
Sunday, 20 July 2014
"The purpose of this paper is to set out and discuss the recent jurisdictional developments in the European Court of Justice (ECJ) with respect to supplementary protection certificates (SPCs) including paediatric extensions. During the past five years the ECJ has been particularly active and has clarified a number of highly controversial legal ambiguities, such as the availability of negative term SPCs".You can check out the contents of the issue in which this article appears here, where you will spot the names and contributions of quite a few of our friends and blog-readers.
Monday, 14 July 2014
Meanwhile, blog team member Robert Stephen is amenable to suggestions for topics and speakers. If you have suggestions for either, can you please email Rob at Robert.Stephen@olswang.com and let him know.