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

Thursday 8 March 2018

Sweden, Incyte and the correction of the duration of SPCs

Many thanks to Hampus Rystedt (Zacco) for providing the following summary of interesting developments in Sweden on the correction of the duration of SPCs.
Correction of the duration of an SPC in view of the CJEU’s decision in Seattle (C-471/14) was dealt with in the CJEU’s decision in Incyte (C-492/16, here). The CJEU found that the term of an SPC is set by the rules of the Regulation 469/2009 and the factual circumstances of the application, and cannot be set by a national patent office. Also, if the national patent office has anyway decided on a different duration, such an erroneous decision can be corrected at any time before the expiry of the SPC term.
While the CJEU was preparing its decision in Incyte, the Swedish courts were also busy considering the question on whether it is possible to correct the duration of an SPC. Eight separate cases were considered, with slightly different factual circumstances.

Correction of decisions by Swedish government agencies (such as the Patent Office) may be corrected under certain circumstances. These circumstances are partly codified, but are also developed in case law. The first instance court (Patent and Market Court) found that SEPTO was competent to decide on the duration of an SPC and that a correction was not possible due to the need for legal certainty for third parties (i.e. generic pharma companies). The second instance court (Patent and Market Court of Appeal) also found that SEPTO was competent to decide on the duration of an SPC and also that there was no need to refer this question to the CJEU, or even stay the proceedings until the CJEU decided in Incyte. The PMCA then decided that an SPC can be corrected, but only if the request for correction was filed prior to the expiry of the basic patent.

The decision of the PMCA was appealed to the Supreme Court by the SEPTO in all eight cases and by one proprietor who had filed a request for correction only after the expiry of the basic patent. The appeals were filed on 23 October 2017. The CJEU then issued its decision in Incyte on 20 December 2017. On 19 February 2018, the Supreme Court decided to not hear the cases and the decision of the PMCA is thereby final.
There is thus prima facie a not insignificant conflict in Sweden between the decisions of the PMCA and the CJEU. While the CJEU of course is the top instance in these matters, it must be borne in mind that the PMCA did consider the question pending in Incyte and obviously found them not relevant to the situation in the pending cases, as it was decided to not stay the proceedings in view of Incyte.

New cases requesting correction, where the request was filed after the expiry of the basic patent but before the expiry of the SPC are now making their way through the system and it will be interesting to see if the Swedish office or courts will find a way to reconcile the decisions of the PMCA and the CJEU, or if the CJEU decision is considered to simply overrule the PMCA.

This will also be relevant for future cases dealing with other issues with SPCs in Sweden. The PMC and PMCA are developing a body of national case law on SPCs and have not yet referred any SPC case to the CJEU. It is no bold guess that this will create further small discrepancies between national Swedish and European case law that have to be handled in various decisions. One such issue is the interpretation of Article 3(d) in view of Neurim (C-130/11), where the PMC has refused to stay cases pending the outcome in Abraxis (C-442/17). The present matters will probably give some hints on how the Swedish courts will try to handle this.

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