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Thursday 26 October 2017

Tenofovir in Denmark - Accord Healthcare fends off Gilead's motion for a preliminary injunction

Nicolaj Lindgreen and Nicolaj Bording at Kromann Reumert report the following news on Gilead's SPC for the combination of tenofovir and emtricitabine in Denmark:
On 26 October 2017, the Danish Maritime and Commercial High Court issued a ground-breaking decision rejecting Gilead's motion for preliminary injunction against Accord Healthcare Limited based on Gilead's Danish SPC for the combination of tenofovir disoproxil (as fumarate) and emtricitabine. 
Accord had defended the motion for preliminary injunction by arguing non-infringement and invalidity of the asserted SPC.  
The Court supported Accord's argument that the SPC's combination of tenofovir disoproxil (as fumarate) and emtricitabine was not protected by the basic patent, and, accordingly, the SPC had been granted in contrary to Article 3(a) of the SPC Regulation.
The only claim in the basic patent that concerns the potential combination of tenofovir with another compound is claim 27, which claims an optional combination of tenofovir with "other therapeutic ingredients".  
Gilead had argued that the skilled person would understand the words "other therapeutic ingredients" in claim 27 as referring to emtricitabine. Hence, according to Gilead, the combination of tenofovir disoproxil (as fumarate) and emtricitabine was covered by the basic patent.  
Accord had argued, in particular, that case law from the CJEU dating from after the grant of the SPC makes it clear that a "product" according to the SPC Regulation has to be specified in the claims, either by reference to the compound's name, its chemical structure or by a functional definition, provided that the functional definition necessarily and specifically relates to the compound in question. Clearly, Accord argued, the words "other therapeutic ingredients" in claim 27 did not specify emtricitabine, neither by name/chemical structure nor by a functional definition, as the words "other therapeutic ingredients" say nothing about the specific function or nature of such "other therapeutic ingredients".  
As indicated, the Court agreed with Accord's invalidity arguments stating that Accord, on this basis, had "proved that the certificate-in-suit is invalid". Hence, the motion was rejected. 
The decision is ground-breaking as this is only the second time in 40 years that a motion for preliminary injunction in the patent area is rejected with reference to invalidity of the asserted right. Normally, it is considered close to impossible to fend off a motion for a preliminary injunction in a patent-related case, if invalidity arguments are the only defence. 
In terms of infringement, the Court found that, had the SPC been valid, Accord's combination product was covered by the SPC. Accord had argued non-infringement referring to the fact that the SPC was granted for tenofovir disoproxil in its fumarate salt form in combination with emtricitabine, whereas Accord's product contained tenofovir disoproxil in its free base form. The Court concluded that Gilead's marketing authorisation on which the SPC had been granted, which did not specify the fumarate salt form of tenofovir, covered tenofovir in all its forms, and, accordingly, so did the SPC. 
Nicolaj Lindgreen and Nicolaj Bording acted for Accord Healthcare Limited.

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