The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) has renewed the hopes of applicants looking to patent method of treatment claims. A recent memo from the USPTO (the “Memo”) provides guidance on method of treatment claims, suggesting that when correctly drafted, such claims should generally be considered patent eligible subject matter.

The Memo comes in direct response to the Federal Circuit’s decision in Vanda v. West-Ward, issued on April 13, 2018. In Vanda, the Court, inter alia, distinguished certain method of treatment claims as patent eligible from those deemed ineligible by the Supreme Court in the infamous Mayo decision in 2012. The Court in Vanda found that the method of treatment claims at issue passed the first prong of the Mayo test, i.e., they were not directed to patent ineligible subject matter, and thus the claims did not need to be analyzed for an inventive concept under the second prong. To support its decision, the Vanda panel highlighted the specificity of the claims at issue:

At bottom, the claims here are directed to a specific method of treatment for specific patients using a specific compound at specific doses to achieve a specific outcome. They are different from Mayo. They recite more than the natural relationship between CYP2D6 metabolizer genotype and the risk of QTc prolongation. Instead, they recite a method of treating patients based on this relationship that makes iloperidone safer by lowering the risk of QTc prolongation. Accordingly, the claims are patent eligible.

For the reader’s convenience, an illustration from the USPTO on the Mayo test is reproduced to the left and a side-by-side comparison of the claim terms in Vanda and Mayo is set forth in the table below.

In analyzing the Vanda decision, the memo highlights three points:

  • First, claims should be evaluated as a whole. Thus, a claim should not be deemed patent ineligible simply because a claim requires a conventional step.
  • Second, patent eligible claims apply a natural relationship rather than claim such a relationship. For example, the claims in Mayo were deemed to be “directed to” the natural relationships of how the body interacts with certain drugs – “[a] method of optimizing therapeutic efficacy” – while the claims in Vanda apply a natural relationship through specific actions to treat a specific disease – “[a] method for treating a patient with iloperidone, [for treating] schizophrenia” and lowering adverse risks of such treatment.
  • Third, if a method of treatment claim is patent eligible under the first prong, of the Mayo test, the Court should not further proceed to the second prong of the Mayo test, i.e., analyzing the claims for something “more,” also known as the illusive “inventive concept.”.

With respect to the second point above, the Memo further explained that correctly drafted claims claim the application of a natural relationship rather than being directed to The Memo highlighted the order of the “primary steps” of “determining” the natural relationship then “administering” a specific quantity to “treat a particular disease.” A rule of thumb thus could be whether the following can be stated after reading a method of treatment claim: “The claim is directed to a method of using _______ [drug] to treat _______ [condition] comprising the following steps . . .”

The claims in Mayo, however, administered a drug and then analyzed the body’s natural reaction in order to provide advice on whether to increase or decrease dosage. In contrast, the claims in Vanda first determined the body’s natural reaction to a drug, then administered the drug in a specific dosage range to treat a particular disease.

While the Memo and the Vanda case signal good news for patentees, there is still a chance, as there always is with the Federal Circuit and the Supreme Court, that future decision may change these interpretations yet again. The Vanda decision was not unanimous. Chief Judge Prost of the Federal Circuit dissenting in Vanda believes that the claims were merely “drafting efforts designed to monopolize the law of nature itself.” According to Chief Judge Prost, “[t]he fact that a reduction of iloperidone dosage in poor metabolizers to the [sic] may reduce QTc prolongation is both the means and the ends of this claim..” A petition for rehearing en banc is currently pending before the Federal Circuit; a Supreme Court petition will likely follow.

Mayo: US Patent 6,355,623
Vanda: US Patent 8,586,610
1. A method of optimizing therapeutic efficacy for treatment of an immune-mediated gastrointestinal disorder, comprising:

(a) administering a drug providing 6-thioguanine to a subject having said immune-mediated gastrointestinal disorder; and

(b) determining the level of 6-thioguanine in said subject having said immune-mediated gastrointestinal disorder,

wherein the level of 6-thioguanine less than about 230 pmol per 8×108 red blood cells indicates a need to increase the amount of said drug subsequently administered to said subject and

wherein the level of 6-thioguanine greater than about 400 pmol per 8×108 red blood cells indicates a need to decrease the amount of said drug subsequently administered to said subject.

1. A method for treating a patient with iloperidone, wherein the patient is suffering from schizophrenia, the method comprising the steps of:

determining whether the patient is a CYP2D6 poor metabolizer by:

obtaining or having obtained a biological sample from the patient;

and

performing or having performed a genotyping assay on the biological sample to determine if the patient has a CYP2D6 poor metabolizer genotype; and

if the patient has a CYP2D6 poor metabolizer genotype, then internally administering iloperidone to the patient in an amount of 12 mg/day or less, and

if the patient does not have a CYP2D6 poor metabolizer genotype, then internally administering iloperidone to the patient in an amount that is greater than 12 mg/day, up to 24 mg/day,

wherein a risk of QTc prolongation for a patient having a CYP2D6 poor metabolizer genotype is lower following the internal administration of 12 mg/day or less than it would be if the iloperidone were administered in an amount of greater than 12 mg/day, up to 24 mg/day.

Per Senator Orrin Hatch, the America Invents Act has disrupted the “careful balance” he struck with Senator Waxman in the development of the decades-old Hatch-Waxman Act governing the adjudication of generic drug litigation. On June 13, 2018, Senator Hatch filed an amendment in the Senate Judiciary Committee to remedy the perceived conflict between the “carefully calibrated requirements” of Abbreviated New Drug Application (“ANDA”) litigation under the Hatch-Waxman Act and the “much blunter instrument” of post-grant proceedings before the United States Patent Trial and Appeal (“PTAB”).   According to Senator Hatch, the amendment “will ensure that Hatch-Waxman continues to operate as originally intended by protecting the ability of generic drug companies to develop low-cost drugs while at the same time ensuring brand-name companies have sufficient protections in place to recoup their investments.”  A press release of Senator Hatch’s remarks is available here.

The “Hatch-Waxman Integrity Act” by Senator Hatch is an amendment to the Creating and Restoring Equal Access to Equivalent Samples Act (CREATES Act), legislation designed to help generic drug companies acquire the samples they need to develop generic drugs, particularly for products subject to a risk evaluation and mitigation strategy (“REMS”). The CREATES Act advanced to the Senate from the Judiciary Committee on June 14, 2018, and was been placed on the Senate Legislative Calendar on June 21, 2018.

The Amendment would add to the CREATES Act a section entitled “Preventing the Inter Partes Review Process for Challenging Patents from Diminishing Competition in the Pharmaceutical Industry and with Respect to Drug Innovation; Preventing the Manipulative and Deceptive Use of Inter Partes Review.” The section has three parts and targets both generic drug manufacturers and biosimilar companies.

In the first portion of the Amendment, an ANDA applicant must certify that they have not and will not file an Inter Partes Review (“IPR”) or Post-Grant Review (“PGR”) or forfeit the ability to participate in the Hatch-Waxman litigation procedures.  Additionally, the ANDA applicants must certify that they are not relying in whole or in part on any decision reached by the PTAB in an IPR or PGR proceeding.

Second, the Amendment forces a similar choice for biosimilar applicants.  Those who file an abbreviated Biologics License Application (“aBLA”) must decide, with respect to any patent that is or could be included in the lists of patents that are exchanged as part of the “Patent Dance,” whether to challenge patents in an IPR/PGR or take the path outlined in the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act (“BPCIA”).

Third, the Amendment aims to end certain market practices and appears to apply broadly to all parties filing for post grant proceedings. To “prevent[] the Manipulative and Deceptive Use of Inter Partes Review,” the Hatch-Waxman Integrity Act amends the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 to address market manipulation tied to inter partes review petitions, such as that attempted by the Coalition for Affordable Drugs.  Specifically, “a person shall be considered to be using a manipulative or deceptive device” if they file a petition for an IPR and engage in a short sale of any publicly traded security of the owner of the patent at issue in the IPR for the 90 days before and after the filing of the petition.

We will continue to monitor the CREATES Act and the Hatch-Waxman Integrity Act in the future. For more information, please feel free to contact Jamaica Potts Szeliga at any time.

This webinar is hosted by The Knowledge Group.

On April 17th at 10 a.m. ET, Dr. Dean Fanelli and Dr. Thomas Haag, along with Jens Viktor Nørgaard of HØIBERG, Niklas Mattsson of Awapatent, Mr. Glyn Truscott of Elkington + Fife LLP and Jennifer O’Farrell of Boult Wade Tennant, will present a live webcast on Bridging the Gap Between EU and U.S. Biotech Inventions Protection.

Biotechnology companies both in the U.S. and Europe rely greatly on patents to protect their biotech inventions, especially during the research and development process. However, with the evolving economic landscape, and the rise of complex developments and innovation, protecting biotech inventions has become more difficult.

In this LIVE Webcast, a team of thought leaders and professionals brought together by The Knowledge Group will provide and present and in-depth analysis of the laws and regulations in the EU and U.S. concerning Biotech Inventions Protection. Speakers will also provide practical tips and strategies to maximize legal protection and to avoid risks and pitfalls while complying with applicable laws.

Key topics include:

  • EU and U.S. Biotech Inventions Protection – Laws and Regulations
  • Similarities and Differences
  • Significant Court Rulings
  • Trends and Legal Updates
  • What Lies Ahead in 2018

For more information and to register for the webinar, click here.

As a special feature of our blog, we include special guest postings by experts, clients, and other professionals—please enjoy this blog entry which includes guest author Rolf J. Haag.[1]

It has been impossible to miss the surreal volatility in Bitcoin’s per unit price—having gone from $1,000 in January 2017 to almost $20,000 (~$750B mkt. cap) toward the end of last year and retracting to under $8,000 (~$500B mkt. cap) in February 2018. Whether these G-LOC-inducing price undulations are reflective of a radical paradigm shift in the mode of financial transactions, history’s greatest pyramid scheme, or some mix thereof, remains to be seen. Continue Reading Will Blockchain Revolutionize Bio/Pharma R&D, Tech Transfer, and IP?

The Federal Circuit on Wednesday reversed Court precedent and long held belief that inter partes review (“IPR”) institution decisions were categorically non-reviewable. The Court, sitting en banc, held that the issue of whether a petitioner is time-barred from filing an IPR petition  under 35 U.S.C. § 315(b) is in fact reviewable.[i]

This case arose when the patent owner alleged that an IPR petition was time barred based on the petitioner being privy with parties sued over the patent more than a year before the petition was filed. The IPR was instituted and a final written decision was published.

Congress granted the Director of the USPTO, subject to certain requirements, the sole discretion in whether to institute an IPR.  It is the extent of that discretion that the Court clarified on Wednesday. The Court honed in on two sections of the AIA—§§ 314 and 315. Section 314(a) authorizes the Director to institute an IPR if there is a “reasonable likelihood” that the petitioner will prevail with respect to at least one claim challenged in the petition. Section 315(b) on the other hand is a statutory time bar provision that limits a petitioner’s ability to successfully pursue an IPR proceeding if the “petitioner, real party in interest, or privy of the petitioner” was served with a complaint alleging infringement of the patent more than one year before the IPR petition was filed. The question answered by the court was whether § 314(d), which deems the Director’s decision to institute an IPR “under this section” final an nonappelable, extends to the time bar set out in § 315(b). According to the court, § 314(d) does not extend to § 315(b), but it is unclear if other determinations may soon be reviewable.

In concluding that the time bar determination is appealable, the Court highlighted the “fundamentally different” analysis of § 314 and § 315. On one hand, § 314(a) relates to a substantive analysis of the merits—a “preliminary patentability determination.” On the other hand, § 315(b) is a “condition precedent to the Director’s authority to act.” In other words, § 315(b) is precondition that if met grants the Director the authority to make a determination under § 314(a). According to the Court, the lack of a clear indication that Congress intended to bar appeals related to § 315(b) gave way to “the strong presumption in favor of judicial review of agency actions.”

This decision, although limited to time bar appeals, opens the door for other challenges to the Director’s “sole discretion.” Based on the Court’s heavy reliance on the language of § 314 being directed to preliminary patentability determinations, it is possible that the Court may be amenable to further appeals that do not relate directly to the “patentability merits of the claims.” Other AIA threshold requirements that may be challenged include the requirement that petitioner name all interested parties in the case and the AIA estoppel provisions.


[i] The case is Wi-Fi One LLC v. Broadcom Corp., Nos. 15-1944, 15-1945, and 15-1946 (Fed. Cir. Decided January 8, 2018).

The Federal Circuit’s Review of Bayer’s Erectile Dysfunction Treatment Suggests Tolerance for a Wide Girth When Aiming for a Narrow Point

In Bayer Pharma AG v. Watson Laboratories, Inc. (Fed. Cir. November 1, 2017), the Federal Circuit overturned the District of Delaware’s finding that Watson failed to prove by clear and convincing evidence that the subject matter encompassed by the claims of Bayer’s U.S. Patent 8,613,950 (the ‘950 patent) was obvious under 35 USC 103. The CAFC invalidated claims 9 and 11 of the ’950 patent as unpatentably obvious. The Federal Circuit made this determination de novo based on the underlying findings of fact from the district court. Continue Reading When Are Swashbuckling Experts Seemingly ‘Flooding’ a Court with Large Number of References?

shutterstock_99945896The value of an early stage biotech company is driven primarily by the quality and scope of its intellectual property. As such, these companies’ primary goal is to stake out and consolidate a defensible claim in their technology space.

In sizing up an early stage company’s IP portfolio during due diligence, many investors and acquirers tend to focus on prior art issues related to patentability and freedom-to-operate concerns posed by the potential risk of someday being sued for infringing a third party patent. However, a hyper-focus on patentability and freedom to operate may be misplaced during early stages of technical development.

Often overlooked is the fact that substantive patent prosecution often winds through years of negotiation with the Patent Office. Moreover, claim sets in a filed patent application continuously evolve not only in response to Examiner rejections but also to track and cover important developments in lead candidate selection and pre-clinical product design, for example.

Additionally, biotech companies usually take advantage of the safe harbor set forth in 35 U.S.C. § 271(e)(1) to avoid charges of infringement for research activities associated with pre-/clinical development. This affords them a certain luxury of freedom with respect to third party patents as they develop their technologies.  Therefore, while early stage companies are expected to understand their competitive IP ecosystem, be aware of potentially threatening third party IP and even have an informal game plan in place to deal with such risks; sophisticated investors and BigPharma acquirers infrequently require that such companies will have actually made cash-draining licensing investments or aggressively attacked third party patents through litigation or Inter Partes Review.

In practice, therefore, sophisticated due diligence with respect to an early stage intellectual property portfolio is often better served scrutinizing an entirely different and more pressing aspect of the technology: Chain of Title.

Between 2007 and 2012, U.S. industrial biopharmaceutical annual R&D spending dropped by about 15%.  It is reasonable to assume that BigPharma’s internal early stage research programs disproportionately fell victim to such cuts.  It is no surprise, therefore, that we have seen an increasing amount of initially publically funded academically derived technologies flowing through start-ups into larger companies.

Inventors generating these new technologies usually collaborate with other researchers at various universities, corporations and service providers. While University professors and post-docs generally owe a duty to assign their inventions to their respective institutions, industrial sponsored research arrangements and third-party grant making entities such as government agencies and philanthropies may nevertheless have their own rights in the IP arising out of the research they support.

Thus a complex juxtapositions of funding sources, inventors, technicians, institutions and former employers — particularly in an area of investigation where the number of experts is small — represents a minefield with respect to issues of technology control and ownership. If not properly managed from the outset Chain of Title issues can explode once a technology is deemed to have commercial value and an aggrieved party believes they are being excluded when the proverbial ‘cookie tray’ is being passed around in the form of liquidity event, for example.

We have often helped parties dealing with tangled chain of title issues.  In the best cases, critical transactions are merely held up and cap tables potentially adjusted while ownership issues are cleaned up.  In the worst cases, an exit is scuttled or a party is sued for breach of contract, breach of a duty of loyalty and misappropriation of trade secrets for example or even accused of inequitable conduct before the USTPO for willfully misnaming or excluding inventors.

Irrespective of who ultimately prevails on the merits in such disputes, the cost in terms of unproductive time, lost opportunity, money, anxiety and reputational damage will no doubt, have been immense. These are particularly painful to bear at the start up stage when cash and key person attention are at a high premium.

Therefore, when conducting due diligence on early stage biotechnologies, it is of critical importance to generate a comprehensive list of all scientists and technicians who were involved in the earliest stages of a technology asset.  Each such individual’s contribution should be carefully analyzed with respect to whether they likely qualify as a legal inventor for example.  Inventorship under U.S. law is tied to conception and linked in concrete terms a claim in a patent or patent application.  The standard for inventorship with respect to know how can be much less clear.

In addition to analyzing inventive contribution, each such person’s obligations to assign their rights in their inventions must be assessed. For example, is a person entitled to keep all rights for themselves or are they obligated to assign to their respective employer/university?  Have the critical requirements of the Bayh-Dole Act, e.g., iEdison reporting, been complied with by federally-funded institutions?  Furthermore, does the inventor in question have a relationship with a funding agency, e.g., through a sponsored research agreement with a biopharma industry partner that has a rights, e.g., of first refusal, to the inventions it funded.  It is imperative that these investigations are conducted early, be properly memorialized and that relevant employee policies, employment and funding agreements are collected and cataloged in preparation for potential future third party due diligence.

Only after matters related to IP inventorship, ownership and control are clarified, is a company in a strong position to efficiently go about raising money or seeking partners to exploit its intellectual property assets.