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

Friday, 10 July 2020

Santen ends Neurim-style SPCs


The wording of Article 3d of the SPC Regulation requires that the SPC application must rely on “the first authorisation to place the product on the market as a medicinal product”. This always suggested that a marketing authorisation granted for a new indication of a previously approved active ingredient could not be relied upon as the basis of an SPC for the patent directed to the new medical use.

However, based on a purposive construction of the Regulation, the CJEU decision in Neurim in 2012 opened the door to just that possibility.

Unusually, the CJEU has now reversed its own Neurim decision in the Santen decision C-673/18 issued on 9 July 2020. A later MA to a new indication cannot be used as the “first MA” supporting an SPC on a new medical use of the same active ingredient. The Santen decision states:

“Article 3(d) of [the SPC Regulation] must be interpreted as meaning that a marketing authorisation cannot be considered to be the first marketing authorisation, for the purpose of that provision, where it covers a new therapeutic application of an active ingredient, or of a combination of active ingredients, and that active ingredient or combination has already been the subject of a marketing authorisation for a different therapeutic application.”

Neurim was always the problem child, out of step with earlier CJEU decisions, and national patent offices struggled to know how broadly to apply it. In Santen, the CJEU expressly now disapproves of the Neurim logic (see paragraph 53 of the decision).

In reaching its decision the CJEU (sitting in Grand Chamber with 13 judges) first concluded that the definition of an active ingredient under Article 1b of the SPC regulation does not import any use-limitation:

"the fact that an active ingredient, or a combination of active ingredients, is used for the purposes of a new therapeutic application does not confer on it the status of a distinct product where the same active ingredient, or the same combination of active ingredients, has been used for the purposes of a different, already known, therapeutic application".

As a result, Article 3d of the regulation must then refer to the first MA for any use of that active ingredient as a medicinal product:

"In addition, in the light of the strict definition of the term ‘product’ within the meaning of Article 1(b) of Regulation No 469/2009, .. the analysis of the wording of Article 3(d) of that regulation presupposes that the first MA for the product as a medicinal product for the purpose of that provision means the first MA for a medicinal product incorporating the active ingredient or the combination of active ingredients at issue (see, to that effect, judgment of 21 March 2019, Abraxis Bioscience, C‑443/17, EU:C:2019:238, paragraph 34), irrespective of the therapeutic application of that active ingredient, or of that combination of active ingredients, in respect of which that MA was obtained."

So, the Neurim logic appears to be dead.

Crucially, any products protected only by SPCs based on second or further medical use patents, and relying on a second, or later, MA for that active, may now be vulnerable to immediate generic competition.

Tuesday, 26 May 2020

Hold the Front Page: Royalty involved in SPC decision!


The CMS patent litigation team in London have provided a review of the Royalty Pharma decision (C650/17). Many thanks to Gareth Morgan, Natalie Coan and Hannah Rigby for their thoughts.  


On 30 April 2020, the CJEU ruled on the interpretation of Article 3(a) of the SPC Regulation in an action between the Royalty Pharma Collection Trust and the German Patent and Trademark Office (C-650/17) (“Royalty”).  

In its ruling, the CJEU in Royalty held that a product developed after the filing date of a patent following an independent inventive step but falling under the functional definition of said patent was not considered ‘protected’ under Article 3(a) of the SPC Regulation. The case brings greater clarity after an uncertain line of case law following Medeva (C-322/10) in relation to what is ‘specified in the wording of the claim’. The CJEU in the Royalty ruling confirmed the test endorsed by the CJEU in  Gilead (C-121/17) by following the two pronged test but most notably added clarification by confirming that the term “core inventive advance” was not relevant to the interpretation of Article 3(a). Until now the CJEU had failed to offer a clear test for applying Article 3(a) but this decision has the effect of finally placing the interpretation of Article 3(a) on more stable ground.

Article 3(a) of the SPC Regulation requires that a product be protected by a basic patent in force before an SPC may be granted in respect of it. Medeva introduced the concept of ‘specified in the wording of the claim’, although it was unclear what that really meant. A further layer of confusion appeared in the CJEU’s decision in Actavis (C-443/12) which stated that the product had to constitute “the core inventive advance of that patent”. That case related to Article 3(c) but the CJEU referred to the same test in Actavis (C-577/13) which related to Article 3(a). It was then unclear when exactly the core inventive advancement of the patent should be taken into consideration and whether it had replaced the Medeva test.

Arnold J sought some clarity on this point in his referral to the CJEU in Gilead. In his referral, Arnold J suggested that ‘protected by the patent’ should mean that the product must ‘embody the core inventive advance’ of the patent, replacing ‘specified in the wording of the claim’. The CJEU did not explicitly reject this proposal but confirmed that each active ingredient should (1) necessarily fall under the invention covered by the patent; and (2) be specifically identifiable in light of the information disclosed by that patent. Arnold J took this to mean that the patent’s technical contribution was relevant to the assessment. The UK Court of Appeal subsequently overturned Arnold J’s interpretation, replacing this with a simpler test of whether all components of the “product” were necessarily required by the language of the claim.

The confusion caused by pre-Gilead case law has however remained, leading to a number of referrals, including that of the German Federal Court in Royalty.

Royalty Pharma had applied for an SPC protecting sitagliptin on the basis of its patent claiming use of dipeptidylpeptidase IV inhibitors to lower blood glucose levels. Sitagliptin was developed after the filing date of the relevant patent. It is however a dipeptidylpeptidase IV inhibitor and was therefore covered by the functional definition in the patent’s claims.

The German Federal Court requested guidance as to whether a product is protected under Article 3(a) where:
1.       The product is not expressly referred to in the patent’s claims;
2.       The product is not considered the specific embodiment of the patent;
3.       The product was developed after the filing date of the patent; and
4.       The product was covered by a functional definition in the patent’s claims.

The CJEU held that Article 3(a):

is to be interpreted as meaning that a product is protected by a basic patent in force within the meaning of this provision if it corresponds to a general functional definition used in one of the claims of the basic patent and necessarily relates to the invention protected by this patent, but without being individualized as a specific embodiment from the teaching of the patent, provided that it can be specifically identified, in light of all the information disclosed by said patent, by a person skilled in the art, on the basis of their general knowledge in the field, considered on the filing or priority date of the basic patent and the state of the art on that same date.”

This ruling follows the ruling in Gilead.

The CJEU’s clarification seems to have confirmed that the test for Article 3(a), in effect, equates to a question whether there has been an enabling disclosure of the product. The CJEU held that:

“Article 3(a) must be interpreted as meaning that a product is not protected by a basic patent in force within the meaning of that provision where, although that falling under the functional definition given in the claims of this patent, it was developed after the filing date of the application for the basic patent, at the end of an autonomous inventive step.”

The CJEU has therefore confirmed that the patentee of the basic patent must demonstrate that the skilled person could produce the product which is the subject of the SPC using only the common general knowledge and prior art, with no inventive activity.

The Royalty ruling confirms, and clarifies, the Gilead decision. It represents another nail in the ‘core inventive advance test’ coffin with respect of Article 3(a), and further demarcates the appropriate test for Article 3(a).  Notwithstanding the clarity offered on Article 3(a) new questions arise in respect of the compatibility of this ruling with the earlier Actavis case law on Articles 3(a) and 3(c), and also the extent to which any later independent inventive activity creates a new “product” for the purposes of SPC eligibility. 

Tuesday, 31 March 2020

Paris Court of Appeal overturns preliminary injunctions against Mylan and Sandoz/ MSD's ezetimibe/simvastatine SPCs

Many thanks to Denis Schertenleib, from Schertenleib Avocats (an old friend of the blog) for the following report on events before the Paris Court of Appeal, in relation to Merck's ezetimibe/simvastatine SPC, in which he was involved: 

On 14 February 2020, the Paris Court of Appeal overturned a series of preliminary injunctions against Mylan and Sandoz based on Merck's ezetimibe/simvastatine SPC. These decisions are of specific interest as they are the first to follow a series of injunctions and substantial awards of provisional damages granted against several generics by the High Court of Paris from 2018 to 2019.  Commentators following such injunctions and awards of provisional damages had argued that this constituted a landmark change of practice at the High Court in pharmaceutical cases. However, these decisions had not been subject to appellate review.  On appeal the court held that, in addition to the relevant SPC being invalid, the measures ordered were disproportionate. The Court of Appeal held that Merck’s SPC suffered from serious grounds of invalidity, thus overturning the previous High Court decision that found this SPC valid and infringed. The Court of Appeal further held that the various product recalls and provisional damages ordered were disproportionate and thus should not have been granted even if the SPC was valid. 

A translation of the Mylan decision is attached here and the Sandoz decision here.


Tuesday, 28 January 2020

The AG's opinion in Santen


Thanks to Nick Fischer at Marks & Clerk law for being first to alert the blog to the AG Opinion in Santen (C-673/18) which was handed down last week. 
The official English translation isn’t available yet, but it looks like the AG favours a strict literal meaning of Article 3(d) (i.e. going against Neurim). 
Nick comments (and the blog agrees based on Google translate!) that there is also a suggestion that, if the CJEU does want to follow Neurim, it should allow SPCs for new therapeutic indications or for uses of the same active which have a pharmaceutical, immunological or metabolic action of their own. 



The Opinion is available here.




Thursday, 12 September 2019

Opinion of Advocate General out on joined referrals C-650/17 (Royalty Pharma) and C-114/18 (Sandoz v Searle)

The Opinion of Advocate General Hogan on CJEU joined referrals C-650/17 (Royalty Pharma) and C-114/18 (Sandoz v Searle) has now been published on the Curia website (here).

As you may recall, the questions referred in the Royalty Pharma (C-650/17) were:
Is a product protected by a basic patent in force pursuant to Article 3(a) of Regulation (EC) No 469/2009 only if it forms part of the subject matter of protection defined by the claims and is thus provided to the expert as a specific embodiment? 
Is it not therefore sufficient for the requirements of Article 3(a) of Regulation (EC) No 469/2009 if the product in question satisfies the general functional definition of a class of active ingredients in the claims, but is not otherwise indicated in individualised form as a specific embodiment of the method protected by the basic patent? 
Is a product not protected by a basic patent in force under Article 3(a) of Regulation (EC) No 469/2009 if it is covered by the functional definition in the claims, but was developed only after the filing date of the basic patent as a result of an independent inventive step?
The questions referred to in the Sandoz v Searle case (C-114/18) were:
Where the sole active ingredient the subject of a supplementary protection certificate issued under [the SPC Regulation] is a member of a class of compounds which fall within a Markush definition in a claim of the patent, all of which class members embody the core inventive technical advance of the patent, is it sufficient for the purposes of Article 3(a) of the SPC Regulation that the compound would, upon examination of its structure, immediately be recognised as one which falls within the class (and therefore would be protected by the patent as a matter of national patent law) or must the specific substituents necessary to form the active ingredient be amongst those which the skilled person could derive, based on their common general knowledge, from a reading of the patent claims?
The Advocate General proposes that the questions are answered as follows:
The two-part test referred to in paragraph 57 of the judgment of 25 July 2018, Teva UK and Others (C‑121/17, EU:C:2018:585) and in the operative part of that judgment applies both to products consisting of a single active ingredient and products composed of several active ingredients;
The concept of the ‘core inventive advance’ of the patent does not apply and is of no relevance in the context of Article 3(a) of Regulation No 469/2009; 
Article 3(a) 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 does not preclude the grant of a supplementary protection certificate for an active ingredient which is covered by a functional definition or a Markush formula provided, however, that the two-part test set out in paragraph 57 of the judgment of 25 July 2018, Teva UK and Others (C‑121/17, EU:C:2018:585) and in the operative part of that judgment is satisfied; 
The two-part test referred to in paragraph 57 of the judgment of 25 July 2018, Teva UK and Others (C‑121/17, EU:C:2018:585) and in the operative part of that judgment must be applied from the point of view of a person skilled in the art and on the basis of the prior art at the filing date or priority date of the basic patent; 
The first part of the two-part test referred to in paragraph 57 of the judgment of 25 July 2018, Teva UK and Others (C‑121/17, EU:C:2018:585) and the operative part of that judgment is not satisfied and an SPC may not be granted in respect of a product if, from the point of view of a person skilled in the art and on the basis of the prior art at the filing date or priority date of the basic patent, the claims in a patent in relation to that product are not required for the solution of the technical problem disclosed by a patent; 
The second part of the two-part test referred to in paragraph 57 of the judgment of 25 July 2018, Teva UK and Others (C‑121/17, EU:C:2018:585) and the operative part of that judgment requires that it be established that a person skilled in the art would have been able, in the light of all the information contained in a patent, on the basis of the prior art at the filing date or priority date of the patent in question, to derive the product in question. This is not the case where, in the light of all the information contained in a patent, a product or constituent element of the product remains unknown to a person skilled in the art on the basis of the prior art at the filing date or priority date of the patent in question.
Many thanks to Oswin Ridderbusch and Alex von Uexküll (Vossius and Partner) for pointing this opinion out to us. 

Wednesday, 10 July 2019

The SPC Blog Seminar 2019 is open for registration!




This year's seminar run by The SPC Blog, "SPC Law and Practice 2019”, is now open for registration. After a year with our SPC feet up, the new referrals have re-opened some issues and we’ll be taking the usual focussed look at the evolving case law and practice with speakers from private practice and the IPOs.  This event will take place at CMS in London, located at 78 Cannon Street on the afternoon of Friday 20 September 2019.

The link to the registration form can be found here




The planned agenda (allowing for some evolution!) is:



1          Introduction and review of pending CJEU referrals (C354/19, C239-19, C114/18, C650/17  - Gareth  Morgan,  CMS

2          C-443/17 - Abraxis CJEU Judgement   - Daniel Wise, Carpmaels & Ransford

3          The Santen referral (C-673/18) -  Thomas Bouvet, Jones Day, Paris

4          Comments on implementation of recent decisions and hot topics- Representatives of the national IPOs

5          Manufacturing waiver – all systems are now go – Robert Stephen, CMS

6          Medical device SPCs – Nick Fischer and Andrew Hutchinson, Simmons & Simmons

7          Q&A



We hope that you can join us.

Friday, 14 June 2019

Update on the SPC export and stockpiling waiver


Following its approval by the European Parliament in April, the final legislation amending SPC Regulation EC/469/2009 – Regulation (EU) 2019/933 of 20 May 2019 – was published in the Official Journal of the EU on 11 June 2019, and will now enter into force on 01 July 2019

Thank you to Andrew Hutchinson and Nicholas Fischer of Simmons & Simmons for passing this on and providing some commentary on the new legislation, which is available here.

Wednesday, 12 June 2019

New SPC reference to the CJEU on Article 3(c) – Novartis (C-354/19)

Carpmaels & Ransford and Awa have kindly prepared the following summary on a recent SPC reference to the CJEU:

"The Swedish Patent and Market Appeal Court has made a reference to the CJEU relating to the interpretation of Article 3(c) of the SPC Regulation for Medicinal Products, in light of Article 3(2) of the SPC Regulation for Plant Protection Products. In brief, the court is asking whether, in a case such as the present, an SPC to a new therapeutic indication is available where the applicant has an earlier SPC to the same active ingredient.

Article 3(c) of the Medicinal Products Regulation states that one of the requirements for SPC grant is that “the product has not already been the subject of a certificate” in the same member state and at the date of the SPC application. Article 3(2) of the Plant Protection Regulation provides that “[t]he holder of more than one patent for the same product shall not be granted more than one certificate for that product. However, where two or more applications concerning the same product and emanating from two or more holders of different patents are pending, one certificate for this product may be issued to each of these holders”, while Recital 17 of the Plant Protection Regulation suggests that Article 3(2) is also valid for the interpretation of Article 3 of the Medicinal Products Regulation.

The Swedish SPC application underlying this reference is based on Novartis’s marketing authorisation for the medicinal product Ilaris®, which contains the anti-IL1beta antibody canakinumab. The marketing authorisation supporting the SPC application is a decision from 2013 which for the first time authorises canakinumab for the treatment of systemic juvenile idiopathic arthritis (SJIA), which is a serious condition responsible for high childhood mortality and severe morbidity. The corresponding basic patent is limited to the use of antibodies such as canakinumab in the treatment of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis.

Novartis has an earlier granted SPC based on a separate patent which protects the canakinumab antibody per se. The SPC is supported by a marketing authorisation for canakinumab in the treatment of Cryopyrin-Associated Periodic Syndromes (CAPS), which is a different indication from SJIA and which falls outside of the scope of the patent that supports the later SPC application.

In view of the existence of the earlier SPC, the Swedish court is asking whether Article 3(c) in light of Article 3(2) precludes the grant of the later SPC application, which relates to a new therapeutic indication protected specifically by its own basic patent. The Swedish court has therefore referred the following question to the CJEU (our translation):
Against the background of the basic objective that supplementary protection for medicinal products aims to accommodate and which consists of stimulating pharmaceutical research in the Union, does Article 3(c) of the Regulation concerning Supplementary Protection Certificates for medicinal products, considering Article 3(2) of the Regulation concerning the creation of a Supplementary Protection Certificate for plant protection products, constitute an obstacle against an applicant, that has previously been granted a Supplementary Protection Certificate concerning a product which is protected by a basic patent in force for the product as such, being granted a Supplementary Protection Certificate concerning a new use of the product in a case such as the present where the new use constitutes a new therapeutic indication which is protected specifically by a new basic patent?
Carpmaels & Ransford represents Novartis AG in respect of its Ilaris® product. AWA represented Novartis AG before the Swedish patent office and courts in relation to the Swedish SPC application."

Tuesday, 11 June 2019

Free SPC Seminar in London tomorrow!

Daniel Wise of Carpmaels & Ransford has written in to the Blog to say that there are a few last places available for Carpmaels’ annual “SPC Summer Review” event taking place tomorrow, Wednesday, 12th June 2019, from 17:30 (for a 18:00 start) at their offices in central London (One Southampton Row, WC1B 5HA).  The seminar will focus on this year’s CJEU referrals and national court decisions, including the ongoing debates on the meaning of Article 3(a) and the validity of SPCs filed on competitors’ products.  Dr Oliver Werner from the German Patent Office will also be on the panel to discuss the new SPC manufacturing waiver.  Drinks and canapés will be served afterwards.  If you would like to join, please send an email to kirstie.mcclumpha@carpmaels.com, with the subject line “I would like to attend the SPC Summer Review 2019”.  Attendance is free of charge.

Thursday, 21 March 2019

C-443/17 - Abraxis CJEU Judgement

The CJEU has today handed down judgment in the case C-443/17 (Abraxis Bioscience), link here (English version). Thank you to Andrew Hutchinson and Nicholas Fischer of Simmons & Simmons for providing some commentary on the decision.

The CJEU’s full answer is as follows:
“Article 3(d) of Regulation (EC) No 469/2009 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 6 May 2009 concerning the supplementary protection certificate for medicinal products, read in conjunction with Article 1(b) of that regulation, must be interpreted as meaning that the marketing authorisation referred to in Article 3(b) of that regulation, relied on in support of an application for a supplementary protection certificate concerning a new formulation of an old active ingredient, cannot be regarded as being the first marketing authorisation for the product concerned as a medicinal product in the case where that active ingredient has already been the subject of a marketing authorisation as an active ingredient.”
The decision follows the AG Opinion in December 2018 (covered on the SPC blog here and also by Andrew and Nicholas here). The decision is quite short, and the main points are that:

  • MAs for “new formulations” of ‘old’ active ingredients do not qualify for “first MAs” under Article 3(d) (or 3(b));
  • Unlike the AG Opinion, the CJEU did not go so far as to overrule Neurim; and
  • The CJEU does not state that Neurim is limited to its facts (i.e. veterinary-to-human), but the reasoning indicates that the direction of travel is a very narrow approach.

Overall, the decision avoids giving full and definitive guidance on the scope of the Neurim exception. In particular, a considerable portion of the judgment is spent emphasising that Abraxane is paclitaxel and not a new “product” under Article 1(b) (which was not in issue having been decided by the UKIPO and affirmed by Arnold J, and so not referred). However, what seems clearer is that “new formulations” will not succeed and the reasoning emphasises that the CJEU will adopt a narrow approach under Article 3(d). This raises question marks for strategies that have been deployed seeking SPCs in reliance on Neurim, in particular those that do not have the veterinary-to-human facts. We may know more on this issue soon given the pending referral from the French courts in Santen (C-673/18).