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

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).

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Forum Institut SPC Seminar 2019

From Rechtassessor Jean-Claude Alexandre Ho (IP conference manager at FORUM Institut für Management GmbH) comes news of an SPC-related seminar which he is organising:
'Quo vadis, SPC?', the update seminar in which Dr Christopher Brückner, the author of the SPC commentary noted here (participants will receive the second edition on top of course documentation), will speak on the CJEU's referrals from 2011 to 2019 and on how to understand the decisions and which practical consequences we may expect for the future. A half-day pre-course will be offered for attendees without prior SPC knowledge/education.
Date: 10 May 2019 (pre-course: 9 May 2019); venue: Amsterdam.

More information is available here

To register, just forward this blogpost to Jean-Claude at jc.alexandreho@forum-institut.de or click here.

Wednesday, 6 February 2019

Darunavir in Swedish Preliminary Injunction Proceedings


Recently, the Paris High Court decided for a preliminary injunction against the commercialisation of Darunavir by Sandoz, the SPC Blog report can be found here. In parallel proceedings, the Swedish Patent and Market Appeal Court has come to the opposite conclusion, and found that that the contested SPC would most likely be found invalid and thus denied a request for a preliminary injunction. Hampus Rystedt from Zacco has kindly provided the following summary of the case.

The first instance Patent and Market Court, which is quite experienced in SPC appeals originating from the examination at the Swedish Patent Office, granted a preliminary injunction. The Patent and Market Appeal Court however reversed the decision. The PMAC specifically referenced the Teva case from the CJEU (C-121/17; EU:C:2018:585) and found that the criteria set out in Teva should be applied when assessing the plausibility that an SPC will be considered valid. The PMAC finds that darunavir is not specifically identified in the claims, and indeed appears to have been first synthesized only after the priority date. The PMAC therefore finds that it is likely that the SPC will be considered invalid in the main proceedings and that a preliminary injunction cannot be granted.

Of interest to note is that the decision in PMAC was split 3 to 2, with the chairwoman and the only chemical expert dissenting. The two dissenting judges found that the case law is not clear on how Art 3(a) of 469/2009 should be applied when the basic patent defines the invention by means of a Markush-formula. These judges were thus of the opinion that it had not been sufficiently shown that the SPC would likely be held invalid, and that the preliminary injunction granted by the lower court should be upheld.

The main proceedings will now continue in the first instance court.

Many thanks Hampus!

Update on SPCs in China

Following our short post last May (here) about patent term extensions in China, Michael Lin and Xiaoyang Yang of Marks & Clerk have recently published an update on the progress for introducing supplementary term certificates in China, as well as patent linkage and data protection, in the Newsletter of the AIPLA Chemical Practice Committee (here).

In short:
"On January 4, 2019, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (hereinafter the “SCNPC”) released the draft amendments to the Chinese Patent Law for public comment.  Article 43 of the draft amendments allows for SPC, and provides that innovative drugs introduced to the Chinese market concurrently with overseas market could be eligible for a maximum of five-years extension to the patent term, wherein the remaining patent term after the extension should be no greater than fourteen years.
It is likely that the draft amendments would be reviewed by the SCNPC at least once more, and so it remains to be seen whether the SPC provisions will be sustained and/or revised. "
Many thanks to Michael Lin, Xiaoyang Yang and Roy Isaac (AIPLA) for allowing us to share this update with SPC Blog readers. 

Monday, 4 February 2019

No more launch at risk in France?

Recently, the Paris High Court decided for a preliminary injunction against the commercialization of Darunavir by Sandoz.  A copy of the decision is available here.  Matthieu Dhenne from Dhenne Avocat has kindly provided the below summary for the case. 
A recent decision of the Paris High Court (January 11, 2019) decided preliminary injunctions against the Darunavir commercialization by Sandoz (Prezista generic). The SPC was found to be presumably valid and thus infringed by Sandoz.  
The question was: how should we applied article 3(a) SPC Regulation (Regulation (EC) No. 469/2009)?  We must beforehand recall that the CJEU has never ruled on how article 3(a) should be applied with respect to a Markush claim. Thus, should darunavir be considered as being “specified in the wording of the claims” (Medeva)? Or should we hold that the claim “relates, implicitly but necessarily and specifically“ to darunavir (Eli Lilly)? But maybe those questions are irrelevant since the claim is not a functional one? 
Firstly, the Paris High Court analyzed the CJEU case law about SPC and concluded that the Eli Lilly test was not applicable to a Markush claim:
“It should be noticed that, in Eli Lilly, the case concerned a functional claim, so that the CJEU insisted on a double condition of necessity and specificity. In the present case, the claims of the basic patent are structural and better allow the skilled person to determine in view of the claims whether the active compound protected by the SPC was covered by the basic patent.” 
Secondly, following the examination of the formula of claim 1 of the patent and the various meanings of the variable groups in this claim and some of the dependent claims, the Judge concluded that: 
“Thus darunavir is identified by the skilled person as being implicitly but necessarily and specifically protected by the EP’209 patent in view of the substituents identified in the claims, in keeping with the requirements of article 3(a) of the EC Regulation and of the CJEU case law.” 
Therefore, the judge considered that the defendant did not prove that the SPC was manifestly invalid. Accordingly, a preliminary injunction was ordered, under a 50,000 euro-penalty per violation of the injunction. The judge also ordered a seizure of the infringing drugs, as well as a product recall. 
The recent French case law (and the reform of nullity actions limitation period with PACTE Law?) send a clear sign to the drug manufacturers: launch at risk should now be avoided in France.
Thank you Matthieu!

Wednesday, 30 January 2019

Recent developments to the SPC manufacturing waiver proposal

As most SPC Blog readers will know, in May 2018, the European Commission published its proposal to amend the SPC Regulation (Regulation (EC) 469/2009) to introduce a manufacturing waiver, i.e. an exception to allow manufacturers of generics and biosimilars to manufacture certain pharmaceuticals to export outside the EU during the SPC term (see here for SPC Blog post). 

Recently the Council of the European Union has published its final mandate (here) for negotiations with the European Parliament on this proposal. 

Andrew Hutchinson and Nicholas Fischer have summarized where things now stand with this proposal in an article, which can be accessed here.  Thanks Andrew and Nicholas!

Tuesday, 18 December 2018

Call for comments for C-673/18 (Santen v INPI)



The UK IPO is seeking comments on CJEU case C-673/18 by 2 January 2019 with a view to lodging observations with the CJEU.  The case was previously reported on the SPC Blog here. If you would like to comment on this case, please email policy@ipo.gov.uk referencing the case number in the subject heading. 

As a refresher, the questions referred to the CJEU in this case is as follows:

“1 - Should the notion of different application within the meaning of the CJEU Neurim decision of 19 July 2012, C-130/11, be strictly understood, i.e.:
- be limited to the case of a human application following a veterinary application,
- or concern an indication in a new therapeutic field, in the sense of a new medical specialty, compared to the previous MA, or a drug in which the active principle exerts an action different from that which it exerts in the drug that was the subject of the first MA;
- or more generally, in the light of the objectives of Regulation (EC) No 469/2009 aiming at establishing a balanced system taking into account all the interests at stake, including those of public health, be assessed according to more stringent criteria than those used for the assessment of the patentability of the invention;
or, on the contrary, should it be understood in an extensive way, i.e. including not only different therapeutic indications and diseases, but also different formulations, dosages and/or modes of administration?
2 - Does the notion of application falling within the scope of protection conferred by the basic patent within the meaning of the CJEU Neurim decision of 19 July 2012, C-130/11, imply that the scope of the basic patent should be consistent with that of the MA invoked and, therefore, limit itself to the new medical use corresponding to the therapeutic indication of said MA?” 

Thursday, 13 December 2018

C-443/17 - Abraxis - AG's opinion out

The Advocate General of the CJEU has provided his opinion in C-443/17 (Abraxis Bioscience) today (here).

As a refresher, the questions referred to the CJEU by Mr Justice Arnold were:
"Is Article 3(d) of the SPC Regulation to be interpreted as permitting the grant of an SPC where the marketing authorisation referred to in Article 3(b) is the first authorisation within the scope of the basic patent to place the product on the market as a medicinal product and where the product is a new formulation of an old active ingredient?"
The Advocate General has advised the Court to rule 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 precludes the grant of such a certificate where the marketing authorisation relied upon in support of the application for a supplementary protection certificate under Article 3(b) of that regulation is not the first marketing authorisation for the active ingredient or combination of active ingredients at issue as a medicinal product. This is so even in a situation, such as that at issue in the main proceedings, where the marketing authorisation relied upon is the first to cover the formulation protected by the basic patent relied upon in support of the application for a supplementary protection certificate under Article 3(a) of that regulation.

Sunday, 18 November 2018

Germany - District Court lifts several ex-parte preliminary injunctions granted for Merck Sharpe & Dohme Corp.


Recently, the District Court in Düsseldorf lifted several ex-parte preliminary injunctions granted for Merck Sharpe & Dohme Corp. (MSD) against various generic companies. The District Court’s decision in German language can be found (HERE) as well as the English translation thereof (HERE). Phillip Rektorschek (Taylor Wessing) and Derk Vos (Maiwald), who acted i.a. for Hexal AG and 1A Pharma, have provided the following summary on the case: 
"Earlier this year MSD, based on SPC DE 12 2004 000 026.1, applied for preliminary injunctions against eight generic companies in order to prevent market entry of generic versions of MSD’s cholersterol-lowering combination product Inegy®. Inegy® is a fixed dose combination of the actives ingredients ezetimibe and simvastatin. While, the present SPC in question, DE 12 2004 000 026.1 is directed to a product covering ezetimibe or pharmaceutically acceptable salts thereof in combination with simvastatin, MSD had also held an earlier SPC in Germany on the very same basic patent EP 1 720 599 B1, which covered the mono-product of ezetimibe (tradename EZETROL®), which expired in April 2018. 
In May 2018 the District Court in Düsseldorf granted MSD ex-parte preliminary injunctions against the generic companies.  
Seven of these generic companies appealed against the preliminary injunction granted by the District Court. It was argued that the SPC-in-suit is invalid and was granted contrary to the requirements of Art. 3 a), 3 c) and 3 d) SPC-Regulation. 
With the decision of 1 October, 2018, these seven injunctions have now been lifted. According to the District Court’s assessment, the validity of SPC DE 12 2004 000 026.1 is not sufficiently secured and the SPC is expected to be invalidated. 
In the District Court’s opinion, the requirements of Art. 3 a) SPC-Regulation were fulfilled for the combination product in question, since the combination of ezetimibe and simvastatin was mentioned in the claims as well as in the specification of the basic patent. Further, the skilled person would have known from the prior art that simvastatin would also be a suitable drug for reduction of cholesterol. Based on the fact that ezetimibe and simvastatin would act via a different mechanisms of action, the skilled person would expect achieving an additive effect with the administration of the two active ingredients. 
However, the District Court concluded that the requirements of Art. 3 c) SPC-Regulations were not fulfilled for the product-in-suit. 
Contrary to MSD’s submission, ezetimibe would be the sole subject matter of the invention protected in the basic patent in an SPC specific meaning. The combination of ezetimibe and simvastatin would not be the core of the technical teaching of the basic patent and should therefore not be awarded a separate SPC. 
The Court made clear that according to their interpretation of the CJEU’s case law, an SPC should be granted for compensating for the duration of the authorization procedure but not for the effort/cost associated with the authorization procedure. Moreover, the extension of protection should only be granted once for a product which may be understood as an active ingredient or combination of active ingredients in the narrower meaning. This approach may lead to situations wherein a combination of active ingredients is in fact considered to be protected in the meaning of Art. 3 a) SPC-Regulaiton, but in view of Art. 3 c) SPC-Regulation there should only be awarded an SPC if a product represents the core inventive advance of the basic patent at its priority date. 
This requirement was considered not to be fulfilled in the present case since the combination of ezetimibe and simvastatin is not the core inventive advance of the basic patent, but only ezetimibe. According to the District Court, the technical contribution for which the SPC should be rewarded must represent the actual technical teaching of the basic patent. In particular for combination preparations, the combination must address a specific problem in the treatment, prevention or diagnosis of a disease, for which the technical solution must be different from the solution provided by the mono product.In the District Court’s opinion not only a synergism of the two actives would qualify for such a different effect but also a reduction of side effects or the like, under the condition that this effect is different from the one observed for the mono-product. However, for the difference relied upon, there must be disclosure in the basic patent at the priority date. Referring to the recent decision C-121/17 – Teva, the District Court stated that it is not sufficient that such differences or effects were only revealed during the authorization procedure. In such a case the aim of the Regulation, namely to compensate for the duration of the authorization procedure would not be fulfilled. 
The District Court further stated that also the other effects relied upon by the Claimant were not disclosed in the basic patent and have been classified as “surprising” by the Claimant itself. It is therefore apparent, that the effect relied upon by the Claimant are based on additional insight gained only during the authorization procedure, but are not disclosed in the basic patent. 
Moreover, in the Court’s view the fact that the majority of the relevant clinical studies for the marketing authorization of the combination product were already conducted for the authorization of the mono-product aggrevates the situation. Only marginal additional data on the effectiveness were provided with the marketing authorization for the combination product, which, however, did not provide any additional gain in knowledge in view of the data contained in the earlier authorization of the mono-product Ezetrol®.
According to the District Court, the mere fact that the combination is provided as a “fixed dose” cannot chance the situation, since it was known to the skilled person at the priority date that patient compliance is improved by fixed dose preparations. In addition, there is no indication that the provision of the fixed dose preparation was associated with any difficulties for the skilled person. 
Summarizing, the District Court found that the SPC was granted contravening the requirements of Art. 3 c) SPC-Regulation and thus the validity of the SPC is not secured and therefore the preliminary injunctions had to be revoked."
MSD has filed an appeal against the first instance decision.

Many thanks to Derk Vos and Philip Rektorschek!



Friday, 2 November 2018

An analysis of the CJEU’s ruling in Teva (C-121/2017) and a proposal for its implementation

Dr. Roberto Romandini of the Max Planck Institute for Innovation and Competition in Munich has published a MPI- Research Paper on Art. 3(a) Reg. 469/2009 that includes an analysis of CJEU’s ruling in Teva (C-121/2017) and a proposal for its implementation. The abstract is reproduced below, the paper is available at https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3270898
Comments and critique are welcome and may be sent to roberto.romandini@ip.mpg.de.
Abstract: On 25 July 2018 the Grand Chamber of the CJEU delivered the eagerly awaited decision on Art. 3(a) Reg. 469/2009 following the referral by Justice Arnold in Teva (C-121/2017). In answering the question what it means to be protected by the basic patent under Art. 3(a) Reg. 469/2009, the CJEU formulated a two-pronged requirement. In order to be eligible for a supplementary protection certificate (SPC) the product (i) must necessarily fall under the invention covered by the basic patent and (ii) be specifically identifiable in that patent. This further formula in the case law following Medeva (C-322/10) is open to a number of interpretations, the most restrictive of which is that the CJEU has adopted a core-inventive-advance test with the first prong and required an individual disclosure of the product with the second prong. This article proposes a purposive implementation of the decision which takes into account the policy goals underlying the CJEU case law. These goals are to prevent multiple SPCs for the same product in conjunction with a number of other active ingredients (“evergreening”), unless such combinations represent a “totally separate innovation” (C-443/12), and to prevent the grant of a certificate for monotherapy products that were developed by a third unrelated entity after the priority date of the basic patent. In order to achieve the first goal, an inventive-advance test is necessary, but also sufficient. In order to ensure the second goal, requiring a disclosure of the product in an individualized form is in some cases sufficient, but not necessary where the patentee has, after the priority date of the basic patent, developed the product and obtained the MA submitted in support of the application for a certificate. In view of the persistent lack of clarity of the case law, the article concludes with some thoughts on the role of the CJEU, the task of the lawmakers and the implication of the Unified Patent Court Agreement (UPCA) for the operation of the SPC system.