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

Wednesday 23 May 2018

Germany - Gilead's SPC for Truvada nullified by the Federal Patent Court

Last week, the German Federal Patent Court nullified Gilead's German SPC for the combination of tenofovir disoproxil and emtricitabine.  Eva Geschke (Wildanger) and Derk Vos (Maiwald), who acted for Generics UK, have provided the following summary on the case:
"On May 15 the 4th Nullity Senate of the German Federal Patent Court (FPC) nullified Gilead’s German SPC DE 2005 000 0041.8, which had been granted for tenofovir disoproxil in combination with emtricitabine. 
This combination of active ingredient is present in various anti-HIV drugs marketed by Gilead and other companies such as TRUVADA® and ATRIPLA®. Four claimants (Teva GmbH, Hexal AG, Generics [U.K.] Ltd., and Hormosan Pharma GmbH) had challenged the validity of the SPC arguing that the product in question was not protected by claim 27 of the basic patent.  While tenofovir disoproxil was specified in the claim, the parties were in dispute on the issue whether the active ingredient emticitabine was specified in the wording of claim 27 of the basic patent by the term “other therapeutic ingredients” for the purpose of Art. 3 (a) SPC-Regulation according to the criteria set by the CJEU in Eli Lilly (C-493/12). 
The FPC in its preliminary opinion had outlined its interpretation on the criteria set by the Eli Lilly decision (C-493/12) in that a functional definition – as a broad generic term, under which various actives may fall – only relates implicitly, but necessarily and specifically, to the active in question as defined in the SPC, i.e. emtricitabine in the present case – if said active forms an active ingredient which is comprised by said generic term. The FPC demands at the same time that it is excluded that other active ingredients are representatives of said generic term, which, however, do not share the specific medicinal characteristics of the active ingredient in question. 
In defending their SPC, Gilead took the position that the CJEU’s case law, and in particular the Eli Lilly decision, does not require any further criteria than the assessment of Art. 69 EPC and the protocol of its interpretation for the determination whether a product is protected by the basic patent or not. 
It appears that the FPC did not follow the interpretation advanced by Gilead on the Eli Lilly decision but considered that further criteria are to be met in addition to the coverage of the product by Art. 69 EPC for an active ingredient to be implicitly, but necessarily and specifically referred to in a claim of the basic patent. 
The Claimants argued that the generic term “other therapeutic ingredients” was completely unspecific and covered various compound classes with different medicinal characteristics and thus the wording used in claim 27 was not suitable to specifically identify the active ingredient emtricitabine of the product in question. 
The FPC decided that the wording “other therapeutic ingredients” was insufficient to specify the active ingredient emtricitabine according to the criteria set by the Eli Lilly decision. Consequently, the requirements of Art. 3 (a) SPC-Regulation were not fulfilled for the product in dispute.

The decision taken by the FPC is in line with the decision taken by the Munich District Court in the preliminary injunction proceedings initiated by Gilead in August 2017, where the District Court rejected Gilead’s request on the grounds that Art. 3 (a) of the SPC-Regulation is not met. 
In addition, the position from the FPC is also in agreement with the opinion of the AG Wathelet, issued on April 25, 2018 in the CJEU referral C-121/17, which referral originates from the parallel invalidation proceedings in the UK
The reasons for the decision will be issued by the FPC in due time. "

Many thanks to Eva and Derk!

No comments: