Gardasil is a quadrivalent vaccine comprising the proteins HPV18 L1, HPV16 L1, HPV11 L1 and HPV6 L1. Each of the four proteins in the vaccine protects against a separate strain of the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). Merck's Israeli patent covers the HPV18 L1 protein and a composition comprising the protein. It does not specifically claim the other proteins included in Gardasil.Liad represented the patentee in the proceedings.
Under sections 64D(1) and 64A of the Israeli Patents Act, in order to be eligible for extension, the patent must claim the "material" ("the active ingredient in the medicinal product"). The Israeli PTO initially rejected Merck's PTE petition on the ground that the Israeli patent did not claim all the active ingredients in the product (i.e. there was no "match" between the scope of the patent and the "material").
The office's approach was in line with the approach taken in the past by several Patent Offices in Europe but was rejected by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) in Medeva and subsequently in Queensland & CSL which also related to Gardasil. It was also opposed to the traditional approach taken by the USPTO.
Merck appealed to Patents Commissioner. On 11 January 2015 the Commissioner overruled the decision and granted the PTE petition. In reaching his decision, the Commissioner noted that each protein in Gardasil was produced in separate fermentation and was a standalone API. Accordingly, the fact that HPV 18 L1 was combined with three other active ingredients in the product did not undermine the eligibility for patent term extension for the patent claiming a single protein.
Significantly, the Commissioner essentially adopted the patentee's approach solely based on analysis of the relevant statutory provisions and related Israeli case law, and completely disregarded the CJEU Medeva ruling. Nevertheless, the Commissioner's decision is an important precedent that brings Israeli law in closer conformity with EU law in connection with SPCs for combination products.
Generally, the Israeli Office is attentive to the legal situation and judicial developments in major jurisdictions. One exception is with respect to the peculiar and rather restrictive PTE system under Israeli law (for a short overview of these peculiarities see earlier SPC Blog post here). The Office has traditionally taken a restrictive approach in interpreting the PTE provisions, often resulting in denial of PTE eligibility. It is yet to be seen whether the recent decision may be a first step in the direction of more balanced decisions on patent term extensions.
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