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?

This is a cross-posted blog from The Blunt Truth.

Despite the dearth of approved marijuana products, the term “medical marijuana” has become commonplace, and the term’s prevalence continues to increase as more states legalize the use of the marijuana plant and its active derivatives for medical purposes, and marijuana dispensaries continue to expand throughout the United States. As of 2017, 29 states and the District of Columbia have approved the use of marijuana for medical purposes. (Despite state laws legalizing marijuana for medical and/or recreational use, marijuana remains a Schedule I controlled substance its distribution and use remain illegal under Federal law.) Continue Reading Is Medical Marijuana Really Medicinal?

This article summarizes information taken from the following sources:  FDA’s Draft Guidance for Industry on Bioequivalence Studies With Pharmacokinetic Endpoints for Drugs Submitted Under an Abbreviated New Drug Application (ANDA) (Dec. 2013) & information set forth in the following link: https://www.fda.gov/Drugs/GuidanceComplianceRegulatoryInformation/Guidances/ucm075207.htm

In order to launch a generic version of an approved reference listed drug (“RLD”), an applicant must file an abbreviated new drug application (“ANDA”) generally demonstrating, among other things, that a proposed generic drug product is bioequivalent (“BE”) to the RLD.[1] Continue Reading FDA Provides New Product Specific Guidance for Development of Certain Generic Drug Products

The America Invents Act (“AIA”) provides for post grant challenges of U.S. patents in the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (“PTAB”) of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. One type of AIA proceeding, Inter Partes Review (“IPR”), came into effect in September 2012, and provides a process for relatively quick determination of invalidity of challenged patent claims based on published prior art. [1] IPR decisions rendered in the past five years have created a body of law addressing a variety of issues related to invalidity challenges before the PTAB. In a recent IPR proceeding, a novel strategy has arisen that posts an interesting question of first impression, whether the assignment of a patent involved in an IPR proceeding to a U.S. Indian tribe can avoid an IPR proceeding based on a sovereign immunity defense. The present blog post summarizes the new issue that the PTAB will be required to decide in the IPR. Continue Reading Indian Tribal Sovereign Immunity Asserted in an IPR

Inequitable conduct arises when a material reference was intentionally withheld by the patent applicant in order to deceive or mislead the examiner into granting a patent. Both materiality and intent must be proven by clear and convincing evidence.[1] In Therasense, the en banc CAFC stated that proving specific intent to deceive the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) requires clear and convincing evidence of:

(1) knowledge of the withheld material information;

(2) knowledge that the withheld information was material; and

(3) a deliberate decision to withhold the information.[2]

The court elaborated that “the specific intent to deceive must be ‘the single most reasonable inference able to be drawn from the evidence.’”[3] On July 24, 2017, the Federal Circuit issued their opinion in Regeneron Pharms., Inc. v. Merus, N.V., Appeal No. 2016-1346, affirming such an adverse inference of specific intent to deceive the USPTO.

In March 2014, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (“Regeneron”) filed suit in the Southern District of New York accusing Merus B.V. (“Merus”) of infringing claim 1 of U.S. Patent No. 8,502,018 (“’018 patent”). Merus asserted a counterclaim of unenforceability due to inequitable conduct.

In general, the ’018 patent relates to using large DNA vectors to target and modify endogenous genes and chromosomal loci in eukaryotic cells.[4] One practical use of this technology is that users may target and modify specific genes in mice so that the mice develop antibodies that can be used by humans. Claim 1 of the ’018 patent, the only claim at issue here, recites, in its entirety, “[a] genetically modified mouse, comprising in its germline human unrearranged variable region gene segments inserted at an endogenous mouse immunoglobulin locus.”[5]

In Merus’s counterclaim of unenforceability due to inequitable conduct, it argued that Regeneron’s patent prosecutors withheld four references (the “Withheld References”) from the USPTO during prosecution of the ’018 patent. According to Merus, these references were cited in a third-party submission in related U.S. patent prosecution and in European opposition briefs, were “but-for” material, and were withheld by Regeneron with the specific intent to deceive the USPTO. There was no dispute that Regeneron knew of the Withheld References during prosecution of the ’018 patent. Regeneron argued, however, that the references were not “but-for” material and instead that the references were cumulative to those that the USPTO actually relied on during prosecution. Regeneron also argued that it did not have specific intent to deceive the USPTO.

During litigation in district court, Regeneron listed a chart and memo prepared by Dr. Brendan Jones, Regeneron’s outside counsel, in connection with his review of whether to disclose the Withheld References to the USPTO. On the eve of the deposition of Dr. Jones, Regeneron disclosed both the chart and the memo. Merus asserted that this disclosure resulted in a broad privilege waiver and brought a motion to compel.

In association with the waiver of privilege, the district court determined that Regeneron needed to produce any documents that reflected additional thoughts, concerns, and considerations given to whether certain references should have been disclosed. The district court’s broad Order included any other memos or communications related to whether such references should have been disclosed to the USPTO. Included within the Order would have been drafts of Dr. Jones’s chart or memo, which might have contained a different conclusion, memos of others who questioned Dr. Jones’s conclusion, and the like. Regeneron disclosed certain limited documents resulting in the parties arguing as to the scope of the waiver and sufficiency of documents disclosed by Regeneron. In all, the district court concluded that there were three categories of documents that presented serious concerns of discovery misconduct:

  1. Non-privileged documents that were not produced and instead resided throughout litigation on the privilege log (e.g., numerous Excel spreadsheets with scientific test results, third party filings to the PTO, and fact statements by non-lawyers not seeking legal advice).
  2. Previously privileged documents as to which Regeneron affirmatively waived the privilege by disclosing the Jones Memo and that the district court ordered be produced pursuant to its Order.
  3. Documents on the privilege log relating to precisely those topics waived by Regeneron when Regeneron filed trial declarations of Drs. Smeland and Jones.

The third category was most troubling for the district court. In the third category, the district court concluded that many documents on the log were directly relevant to the topics as to which privilege has been waived. In particular, these documents were directly relevant to Drs. Smeland and Murphy’s mental impressions of the Withheld References during prosecution of the ’018 patent. The documents would therefore have been relevant to determining if Regeneron specifically intended to deceive the USPTO by failing to disclose the Withheld References during prosecution of the ’018 patent. Accordingly, the district court sought an alternative remedy and concluded that it was appropriate to draw an adverse inference against Regeneron from the undisclosed documents. The district court ultimately concluded that Regeneron failed to disclose the Withheld References to the USPTO during prosecution of the ’018 patent with the specific intent to deceive the USPTO.

The district court scheduled a bench trial on Regeneron’s inequitable conduct, but bifurcated the trials based on the two elements of inequitable conduct: a first bench trial on the materiality of the Withheld References, and a second bench trial regarding the specific intent to deceive the USPTO.[6] Following the first trial, the district court issued a lengthy opinion detailing the materiality of the Withheld References.[7]

Materiality

“[A]s a general matter, the materiality required to establish inequitable conduct is but-for materiality.”[8] A prior art reference is “but-for material if the USPTO would not have allowed a claim had it been aware of the undisclosed prior art.”[9] In determining the materiality of a reference, the court applies the preponderance of the evidence standard and gives claims their broadest reasonable construction.[10]

A reference is not but-for material, however, if it is merely cumulative.[11] A reference is cumulative when it “teaches no more than what a reasonable examiner would consider to be taught by the prior art already before the USPTO.”[12]

The district court in the Regeneron matter found that certain uncited references were “but-for material” to patentability even though the court did not find the ’018 patent claims invalid on the substantive content of these references.

Adverse Inference of Specific Intent

The district court never held a second trial to determine if Regeneron acted with the specific intent to deceive the USPTO during prosecution. Instead, the court sanctioned Regeneron for its litigation misconduct by drawing an adverse inference of specific intent. In particular, the district court discussed Regeneron’s repeated violations of the district court’s discovery orders and improper secreting of relevant and non-privileged documents. Based on this misconduct, the district court drew an adverse inference that Regeneron’s agents failed to disclose the Withheld References to the USPTO with the specific intent to deceive the USPTO.

For a finding of inequitable conduct, in addition to proving the materiality of withheld references, “the accused infringer must prove that the patentee acted with the specific intent to deceive the PTO.”[13] “[A] court must weigh the evidence of intent to deceive independent of its analysis of materiality. Proving that the applicant knew of a reference, should have known of its materiality, and decided not to not to submit it to the USPTO does not prove specific intent to deceive.”[14] “In a case involving nondisclosure of information, clear and convincing evidence must show that the applicant made a deliberate decision to withhold a known material reference.”[15]. Direct evidence of intent is not, however, required. A court may infer intent from circumstantial evidence.[16] An inference of intent to deceive is appropriate where the applicant engages in “a pattern of lack of candor,” including where the applicant repeatedly makes factual representations “contrary to the true information he had in his possession.”[17]

Having determined the but-for materiality of the Withheld References and drawn an adverse inference of Regeneron’s specific intent to deceive the USPTO, the district court determined that Regeneron had committed inequitable conduct and held the ’018 patent unenforceable.

The CAFC concluded that substantial evidence supported the district court’s finding of but-for materiality of the Withheld References.[18] The CAFC further held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by drawing an adverse inference of Regeneron’s specific intent to deceive the USPTO.

Dissent

Judge Newman dissented chastising the majority that intent to deceive cannot be inferred., relying on Aptix Corp. v. Quickturn Design Systems, Inc., 269 F.3d 1369 (Fed. Cir. 2001), for the proposition that litigation misconduct cannot support a finding of  unenforceability of a patent for inequitable conduct. However, in addressing the dissent, the CAFC majority confirmed that neither the parties nor the district court relied on Aptix, and for good reason: Aptix is inapposite. The CAFC stated,

In Aptix, the district court declared a patent unenforceable as a “penalty” because Aptix engaged in litigation misconduct under the doctrine of unclean hands. 269 F.3d at 1378. We reversed that decision holding that “the doctrine of unclean hands [does not] provide a suitable basis for the district court’s judgment, as this equitable doctrine is not a source of power to punish.” Id. We did so because “the relief for unclean hands targets specifically the misconduct, without reference to the property right that is the subject of the litigation.” Id. at 1376. Essentially, we held that courts may not punish a party’s post prosecution misconduct by declaring the patent unenforceable. Here, Regeneron is accused not only of post prosecution misconduct but also of engaging in inequitable conduct during prosecution.[19]

Regeneron’s litigation misconduct, however, obfuscated its prosecution misconduct. In particular, Regeneron failed to disclose documents directly related to its prosecuting attorneys’ mental impressions of the Withheld References during prosecution of the ’018 patent. The district court drew an adverse inference to sanction this litigation misconduct. The district court did not punish Regeneron’s litigation misconduct by holding the patent unenforceable. Only after Merus proved the remaining elements of inequitable conduct did the district court hold the patent unenforceable. In light of Appellant’s widespread litigation misconduct, including Appellant’s use of sword and shield tactics to protect Drs. Smeland and Murphy’s thoughts regarding disclosure of the Withheld References to the PTO during prosecution of the ’018 patent, we conclude that the district court did not abuse its discretion by drawing an adverse inference of specific intent to deceive the PTO.

Practice Tip

Generally, it is a best practice to submit all references and associated litigation documents to the USPTO and to avoid making a determination of the necessity to submit art to the USTPO based on the materiality of the subject matter.

In circumstances where certain material art is inadvertently not submitted to the USPTO during prosecution, patentees should consider supplemental examination or ex parte reexamination to have the USPTO consider information and related issues that a challenger might raise against the patent during litigation.


[1] Therasense, Inc. v. Becton, Dickinson & Co., 649 F.3d 1276, 1287 (Fed. Cir. 2011) (en banc).

[2] Id. at 1290.

[3] Id. (quoting Star Scientific Inc. v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., 537 F.3d 1357, 1366 (Fed. Cir. 2008)).

[4] See the ’018 patent at col. 1, ll. 17– 33.

[5] Id. at col. 29,  ll. 24–26.

[6] See Therasense, Inc. v. Becton, Dickinson & Co., 649 F.3d 1276, 1287 (Fed. Cir. 2011) (en banc).

[7] Regeneron Pharm., Inc. v. Merus B.V., 144 F. Supp. 3d 530 (S.D.N.Y. 2015) (“Regeneron I”).

[8] Therasense at 1291.

[9] Id.

[10] Id. at 1291–92.

[11] See Dig. Control Inc. v. Charles Mach. Works, 437 F.3d 1309, 1319 (Fed. Cir. 2006) (“However, a withheld otherwise material prior art reference is not material for the purposes of inequitable conduct if it is merely cumulative to that information considered by the examiner.”).

[12] Regents of the Univ. of Calif. v. Eli Lilly & Co., 119 F.3d 1559, 1575 (Fed. Cir. 1997).

[13] Therasense, 649 F.3d at 1290.

[14] Id. (citing Star Sci., Inc. v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., 537 F.3d 1357, 1366 (Fed. Cir. 2008)).

[15] Id. (quoting Molins PLC v. Textron, Inc., 48 F.3d 1172, 1181 (Fed. Cir. 1995)) (internal quotation marks omitted).

[16] Id.

[17] Apotex Inc. v. UCB, Inc., 763 F.3d 1354, 1362 (Fed. Cir. 2014).

[18] Regeneron Pharms., Inc. v. Merus, N.V., Appeal No. 2016-1346 (Fed. Cir. July 24, 2017), available at http://www.cafc.uscourts.gov/sites/default/files/opinions-orders/16-1346.Opinion.7-24-2017.1.PDF.

[19] Cf. Dissent at 4 (“[I]n order to invalidate the patent, the inequitable conduct must have occurred in patent prosecution.”).

Finding against the Federal Circuit once again on a patent case, the Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision in Sandoz v. Amgen relating to the interpretation of the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act of 2009 (“BPCIA”) in its first decision on the Act.  The Supreme Court’s decision firmly establishes the availability of a third biosimilar “dance,” at least as far as Federal law is concerned.

The BPCIA provides the mechanism by which companies can bring to market “biosimilar” compounds, i.e., products that can compete with biological drugs much the same way as generic drugs compete with traditional “brand” pharmaceutical products.  On appeal, the Supreme Court considered two issues.  First, the biosimilar applicant, Sandoz, challenged the Federal Circuit’s interpretation of the BPCIA as requiring an applicant to wait until after the FDA approved its biosimilar application before providing the requisite 180-day notice of commercial marketing to the brand company.  This meant that a biosimilar applicant had to wait an additional 180 days after its application was granted before it could launch a competing product.  The FDA cannot approve (“license”) a biosimilar product until twelve years after the biologic was first approved by the agency.  Thus, the Federal Circuit’s decision effectively provided the brand manufacturer with 12½ years rather than 12 years of market exclusivity.

The Supreme Court reversed the Federal Circuit and explicitly determined that applicants can provide notice before or after FDA approval. According to the Supreme Court, the pertinent statutory language in the BPCIA has two separate requirements:  (1) that the biosimilar application is “licensed” before it is marketed; and (2) that the biosimilar applicant gives notice 180 days before marketing occurs.  The Federal Circuit thus erred in requiring licensure before notice could be given.

The second issue tackled by the Supreme Court relates to the “patent dance” provisions of the BPCIA. The “patent dance” is a statutory scheme through which the biosimilar applicant and the brand manufacturer exchange information and legal theories until deciding upon which patents to litigate first.  Sandoz refused to provide the biosimilar application and manufacturing information contemplated in the dance, leading Amgen to seek an injunction under federal and state law to compel participation.  The district court and Federal Circuit determined that an injunction was not available.

On cross-appeal, the Supreme Court agreed with the Federal Circuit that injunctions under federal law are not permitted, but remanded the case to review state law remedies.  According to the Court, the BPCIA allows the brand company immediately to bring a declaratory judgment action against the biosimilar applicant if they do not provide their application and manufacturing information.  This remedy deprives the applicant of the ability to control the scope of the litigation (i.e., which patents to litigate) and the timing of the suit.  The Supreme Court determined that the remedy of immediate suit was the only federal remedy contemplated for an applicant’s failure to dance.  The Supreme Court remanded the case to address whether non-compliance with the BPCIA can be considered a violation of California law entitling Amgen to an injunction and/or whether the BPCIA’s remedy pre-empts any state law remedies.

Seyfarth will be closely monitoring the remand of Sandoz in the coming months.

The SANDOZ Dance

Step 1:   Skip
42 U.S.C. § 262(l)(2)(A)

 BIOSIM good Applicant refuses to provide aBLA and information describing manufacturing

Step 2: File Suit
42 U.S.C. § 262(l)(9)(C)

 BRAND good Reference sponsor chooses what patents to sue upon and when to bring suit against Applicant

 

The FAST BPCIA Dance

Step 1:   Disclose
42 U.S.C. § 262(l)(2)(A) – 20 days

BIOSIM good Applicant provides a copy of aBLA and information describing manufacturing

Step 2: Disclose
42 U.S.C. § 262(l)(3)(A) – 60 days

 BRAND good Reference sponsor provides list of assertable patents and identifies any patents it is willing to license

Step 3:   Disclose
42 U.S.C. § 262(l)(3)(B) – 60 days

BIOSIM good Applicant provides its own list of assertable patents, responds to licensing offer, and gives “detailed statements” why all listed patents are invalid, unenforceable, or will not be infringed

Step 4: Disclose
42 U.S.C. § 262(l)(3)(C) – 60 days

 BRAND good Reference sponsor gives “detailed statements” why the claims of all listed patents are infringed and responds to Applicant’s detailed statements

Step 5: Negotiate
42 U.S.C. § 262(l)(4)(A)

NEG SUCCESS Applicant and Reference sponsor negotiate to develop a final and complete list of patents for the initial patent infringement lawsuit and agree

Step 6:  File Suit
42 U.S.C. § 262(l)(6)(A) – 30 days

 BRAND good Reference sponsor files suit on agreed-upon patents

 

The SLOW BPCIA Dance

Step 1:   Disclose
42 U.S.C. § 262(l)(2)(A) – 20 days

BIOSIM good Applicant provides a copy of aBLA and information describing manufacturing

Step 2: Disclose
42 U.S.C. § 262(l)(3)(A) – 60 days

 BRAND good Reference sponsor provides list of assertable patents and identifies any patents it is willing to license

Step 3:   Disclose
42 U.S.C. § 262(l)(3)(B) – 60 days

BIOSIM good Applicant provides its own list of assertable patents, responds to licensing offer, and gives “detailed statements” why all listed patents are invalid, unenforceable, or will not be infringed

Step 4: Disclose
42 U.S.C. § 262(l)(3)(C) – 60 days

 BRAND good Reference sponsor gives “detailed statements” why the claims of all listed patents are infringed and responds to Applicant’s detailed statements

Step 5: Negotiate
42 U.S.C. § 262(l)(4)(B) – 15 days

NEG FAILS

Applicant and Reference sponsor negotiate to develop a final and complete list of patents for the initial patent infringement lawsuit but FAIL TO agree

Step 6:  Choose
42 U.S.C. § 262(l)(5)(A)

 BIOSIM good Applicant gives reference sponsor the number of patents it proposes to litigate

Step 7:  Exchange
42 U.S.C. § 262(l)(5)(B) – 5 days

Exchange Applicant and Reference sponsor simultaneously exchange list of patents that should be part of infringement action; Reference sponsor’s list limited to same number given by Applicant

Step 8:  File Suit
42 U.S.C. § 262(l)(6)(B) – 30 days

BRAND good Reference sponsor files suit on all patents on lists.

 

Less than two months after oral argument, the Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision on Monday, May 22, 2017, in TC Heartland LLC v. Kraft Foods Group Brands LLC, uprooting long-standing Federal Circuit precedent regarding proper venue for patent infringement cases.  While the TC Heartland decision certainly portends a shift away from certain district courts, its effects may very well be minimal with respect to Paragraph IV litigation.

Evolution of Patent Venue Laws

The issue in TC Heartland can be traced back to the creation of a separate venue statute in 1897 for patent infringement cases.  Prior to the amendments of 1897, patent litigation cases were treated just like any other federal matter for venue purposes.

Venue refers to the proper or most convenient location for a case or trial — it is designed to keep litigation near the defendant or the site of the action that gave rise to the suit.  In 1897, Congress approved a separate patent venue statute, which defined venue to include (1) where the alleged infringer was an “inhabitant” or (2) where the defendant both committed the act(s) of infringement and maintained a “regular and established place of business.”  In 1948, Congress made a slight non-substantive revision to the patent venue statute, replacing “inhabit[]” with “resides.”  Supreme Court decisions relating to the pre-1948 and post-1948 patent venue statute determined that the patent venue statute was the exclusive venue provision for patent infringement actions and that both “inhabit” and “resides” meant the place of incorporation of the alleged infringer. Stonite Products Co. v. Melvin Lloyd Co., 315 U.S. 561, 563-66 (1942); Fourco Glass Co. v. Transmirra Products Corp., 353 U.S. 222, 224-229 (1957).

The 1948 patent venue statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1400(b), has not been modified since its enactment.  It reads:

28 U.S.C. § 1400(b):  Any civil action for patent infringement may be brought in the judicial district where the defendant resides, or where the defendant has committed acts of infringement and has a regular and established place of business.

In contrast to the patent venue statute, the generally applicable venue statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1391, has undergone more recent revisions.  For example, in 1988, Congress expanded the location where a defendant can and should be sued.  The general venue statute modified the definition of “resides” by expanding residence to include “any judicial district in which such defendant is subject to the court’s personal jurisdiction.”  28 U.S.C. § 1391(c).  Personal jurisdiction can include places where the defendant has directed its actions, for example, where the product at issue is in the stream of commerce.

Two years after the 1988 amendment, the Federal Circuit evaluated whether the 1988 change to the general venue statute affected the patent-specific venue provision, 28 U.S.C. § 1400(b).  In VE Holding Corp. v. Johnson Gas Appliance Co., the Federal Circuit held that the term “resides” in Section 1400(b) should be interpreted using the new definition of “resides” in Section 1391(c).  The end result was to make venue proper for patent litigation anywhere the defendant is subject to personal jurisdiction rather than the more restricted definition of resides as the place of incorporation. VE Holding Corp. v. Johnson Gas Appliance Co., 917 F.2d 1574 (Fed. Cir. 1990).  The Supreme Court denied certiorari. Johnson Gas Appliance Co. v. VE Holding Corp., 499 U.S. 922 (1991).

Over the last 27 years, attorneys have associated VE Holding Corp. with an increase in forum shopping — once venue became easier to establish, plaintiffs brought suit in places thought to provide advantages in terms of procedure, outcome, or otherwise.  For example, VE Holding is said to have contributed to the rise of the Eastern District of Texas as a go-to district for patent owners. See, e.g., Alisha Kay Taylor, What does Forum Shopping in the Eastern District of Texas Mean for Patent Reform, 6 J. Marshall Rev. Intell. Prop. L. 570, 575-577 (2007).  The Eastern District of Texas offers streamlined patent litigation procedures and a reputation for patent holder wins.  It is not a populous district, nor a place of incorporation or a principal place of business for most defendants.

After VE Holding, the Federal Circuit continued to field cases about patent venue.  In light of the rise of “troll” litigation, i.e., litigation by non-practicing entities (“NPE”s) filed in plaintiff-friendly forums, the Federal Circuit attempted to limit venue by finding that retaining jurisdiction in certain forums was an abuse of discretion. E.g., In re TS Tech United States Corp., 551 F.3d 1315 (Fed. Cir. 2008) (ordering transfer of case from the Eastern District of Texas to the Southern District of Ohio).  Congress also repeatedly introduced bills specifically designed to limit patent venue in an attempt to curb NPE litigation; those bills were never passed. See, e.g., Venue Equity and Non-Uniformity Elimination Act of 2016, S. 2733, 114th Cong. (2015-2016).

TC Heartland

The TC Heartland litigation allowed the Supreme Court a second chance to evaluate the merits of VE Holding Corp. (and their own opportunity to combat forum-shopping in patent litigation matters). In TC Heartland, Kraft Food Group Brands LLC (“Kraft”) brought suit against TC Heartland, LLC (“TC Heartland”) in the district court of Delaware.  TC Heartland moved to dismiss the suit or at least transfer the case — the company was incorporated in Indiana, maintained headquarters in Indiana, and less than 2% of the allegedly infringing product ended up in Delaware. See In re TC Heartland LLC, 821 F.3d 1338, 1340 (Fed. Cir. 2016).  The Delaware district court denied the motion to dismiss or transfer venue, leading to an appeal to the Federal Circuit.

On appeal, the Federal Circuit addressed the effect of another set of amendments to the general venue statute made in 2011. At that time Congress, inter alia, added language in 28 U.S.C. § 1391(a), stating that the general venue statute applied “[e]xcept as otherwise provided by law.” Id. at 1341.  According to TC Heartland, the additional language made the general venue statute inapplicable where other venue statutes existed, such as the patent venue statute of 28 U.S.C. § 1400(b). Id. The Federal Circuit rejected TC Heartland’s arguments, reaffirming the VE Holding Corp. precedent.  According to the court, the patent venue statute did not define the term “resides” and thus looking to the general venue statute for guidance would not defy the “otherwise provided by law” language added in 2011. Id. at 1341-44.

By an 8-0 vote, the Supreme Court reversed the Federal Circuit’s In re TC Heartland decision, overturning the precedent of VE Holding Corp. In its place, the Supreme Court has determined that the term “resides” for purposes of the patent venue statute should be interpreted in accordance with the Supreme Court’s 1956 decision of Fourco: residence means the state of incorporation of the defendant.  Under TC Heartland, plaintiffs alleging patent infringement must therefore file suit where the defendant resides (i.e., their state of incorporation) rather than wherever personal jurisdiction exists.  Alternatively, a plaintiff can make use of the second location for venue provided by Section 1400(b)–where the defendant has committed acts of infringement and has a regular and established place of business.

Effects of TC Heartland

The most obvious effect predicted from TC Heartland is a shift in patent litigation forums away from places like the Eastern District of Texas, where venue typically relied on very minimal ties to the district, and toward states such as Delaware, where many domestic corporations are incorporated.  An increase in inter partes review and post grant review proceedings before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) also may occur given that venue rules do not apply.

With respect to ANDA litigation, however, TC Heartland may not move the needle.  First, generic companies are already being sued primarily where they are incorporated.  According to recent data from Lex Machina, the vast majority of ANDA litigation matters are heard before the District Court of Delaware and the District Court of New Jersey — more than 10 times as many cases are cited in each of these districts than the next most popular venue.  Lex Machina, Hatch-Waxman/ANDA Litigation Report 2017 at Fig. 5 (showing that from 2015 to Q1 of 2017, there were 324 ANDA filings in New Jersey and 387 in Delaware compared to 30 in the Northern District of West Virginia (home to generic drug company Mylan)).

Second, the Supreme Court declined to review the Federal Circuit’s decision last year on ANDA jurisdiction. In Acorda Therapeutics Inc. v. Mylan Pharm. Inc., 817 F.3d 755 (Fed. Cir. 2016), the Federal Circuit determined that ANDA filers are subject to specific jurisdiction, a form of personal jurisdiction, in any state where they plan to market their generic product.  While TC Heartland eliminates the ability to use personal jurisdiction to establish venue, Acorda’s reasoning has implications for the second ground for venue under Section 1400(b):  where the acts of infringement have occurred and the defendant has a regular and established place of business.  In Acorda, the Federal Circuit determined that the “real world market injury” for an ANDA filing is where the generic product will be sold.  This suggests that in evaluating where the acts of infringement have occurred, the Federal Circuit may take into account the intent of an ANDA filing to infringe nationwide rather than focusing on just the filing of an ANDA with a Paragraph IV certification as the act of infringement.  This could keep litigation in more forums than simply where the Paragraph IV certification was drafted or submitted.

A third reason that TC Heartland may have a limited impact on ANDA litigation is that it explicitly did not reach any decision on where a foreign company can be sued for purposes of 28 U.S.C. § 1400(b).  Plaintiffs often file suit against both the domestic generic company and its foreign parents or subsidiaries who may have developed the product or plan to produce it.  Under such circumstances, TC Heartland is silent as to how venue should be determined in such cases.

Finally, because many ANDA litigations involve multiple generic companies, ANDA litigation may still end up in a less convenient forum. Under 28 U.S.C. § 1407, if civil actions that “involv[e] one or more common questions of fact” are pending in different districts, the actions can be transferred by the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (“JPML”) or consolidated pretrial proceedings. Any party can request consolidation.

Overall, the distribution of patent litigation in the United States in TC Heartland likely will change to favor districts more amenable to defendants, such as where the alleged infringer has chosen to incorporate.  We will be closely monitoring ANDA forum choices, however, including the activity of the JPML, in the coming months to see if a similar shift occurs for ANDA litigation.

 

 

If you would like further information, please contact Jamaica P. Szeliga at jszeliga@seyfarth.com, Dean L. Fanelli, Ph.D., at dfanelli@seyfarth.com, or Thomas A. Haag, Ph.D., at thaag@seyfarth.com. 

 

shutterstock_279495203One goal of BioLoquitur is to provide commentary and analysis on important developments in U.S. law affecting the pharmaceutical and biologics industry. It can be easy to forget that legal developments are not limited to the latest court decisions or agency actions, however.  The most profound changes in U.S. law arise from legislation.   This post thus provides a snapshot of relevant legislative proposals for the first quarter in 2017.

While the bills highlighted in this post have yet to make significant progress in the legislative process, they provide insight into what issues Congress is concerned about and how they might address such issues.

Currently, there over a dozen bills pending in the House of Representatives and Senate relevant to pharmaceutical and biologics companies. Common themes include (1) expediting the market entry of generic drugs and biosimilar products; (2) addressing drug shortages; and (3) discouraging certain settlement provisions between brands and generic companies that are thought to have anti-competitive effects, such as “pay-for-delay” requirements.  Below is a short summary of key bills and their status to date.  For a Quick View table, click here.

“Improving Access to Affordable Prescription Drugs Act,” H.R. 1776; S. 771. On March 29, 2017, Representative Janice Schakowsky and Senator Al Franken, both democrats, introduced identical bills that would enact comprehensive reforms relating to pharmaceutical drugs and biologics products. Provisions of the bills would impose reporting requirements, levy taxes and eliminate tax deductions for certain actions, reduce market exclusivity periods, and imposing de facto limits on settlements between generic drug companies and brand companies. The bills have been referred to committees. Significant provisions include:

  • Sec. 101. Requiring Mandatory reporting for drug and biologic manufacturers, including disclosure of sales volume, gross and net revenue and profit, drug pricing, information executive compensation, and a breakdown of expenditures for research and development, costs of goods sold, acquisition and licensing costs, and marketing and advertising spend.
  • Sec. 202. Imposing a tax on revenue earned because of any “price spike” in prescription drug pricing.
  • Sec. 204. Permitting the importation and sale of drugs by foreign wholesale distributors and licensed foreign. pharmacies, starting initially with Canadian pharmacies.
  • Sec. 303 (a)(1). Allowing the early submission of an abbreviated new drug application (ANDA) for a new chemical entity (NCE) (three years after approval) and shortening the approval time for ANDAs under certain conditions. Currently, the earliest date for submitting an ANDA is four years after the approval of the NCE.
  • Sec. 303(a)(2). Restricting the current three year supplementary regulatory exclusivity granted for new indications, formulations, dosages and the like to only those approvals that show a “significant clinical benefit over existing therapies.
  • Sec. 303(a)(3). Slashing the market exclusivity afforded to new biologic drugs from 12 years to 7 years.
  • Sec. 304. Revoking market exclusivities for drugs and biologics for certain violations, including misbranding, illegal marketing, kickbacks, and other acts of fraud.
  • Sec. 404. Creating a legal presumption that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) can rely on that the following settlements between brand companies and ANDA filers have an anticompetitive effect:
    • Settlements that provide the ANDA filer with anything of value, including an exclusive license, other than the right to market before the expiration of the patents covering the drug, payment of legal expenses up to $7.5 million, and/or a covenant not to sue;
    • Settlements where the ANDA filer agrees to limit or forego research and development, manufacturing, marketing or sales of the ANDA product for any period of time.
  • Sec. 405. Preventing deductions for direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription drugs.
  • Sec. 406. Requiring the FTC to prepare a report accessing the impact of “product hopping,” where “product hopping” refers to when a manufacturer develops a new formulation of a known drug or biologic product for a particular indication and then acts to reduce or eliminate demand for the original product,

“Medical Innovation Prize Fund Act,” S.495. Introduced by Independent Senator Bernie Sanders on March 2, 2017, this bill would broadly eliminate patent and market exclusivity provisions for drugs and biologics and instead establish a fund to award prizes and payments for medical innovations. The bill has been referred to committee.

Affordable and Safe Prescription Drug Importation Act, H.R. 1245; S. 469. On February 28, 2017, Democratic Representative Elijah Cummings and Independent Senator Bernie Sanders introduced identical bills to permit importation of drugs from foreign wholesales and foreign pharmacies. The provisions of these bills are largely subsumed within the more comprehensive “Improving Access to Affordable Prescription Drugs Act.” The bills are currently in committee.

The “OPEN ACT,” H.R. 1223. On February 27, 2017, Republican Representative Gus Bilirakis introduced the OPEN ACT, i.e., the Orphan Products Extension Now Accelerating Cures and Treatments Act of 2017. The OPEN ACT would grant an additional 6 months of market exclusivity for an approval of a new indication treating rare diseases and conditions. This exclusivity would extend any existing market exclusivity, such as the five-year exclusivity period for NCE products. The bill has been referred to committee.

“Increasing Competition in Pharmaceuticals Act,” S. 297; “Lower Drug Costs through Competition Act,” H.R. 749. Senator Susan Collins, Republican, and Representative Kurt Schrader, Democrat, introduced these related bills on February 2, 2017 and January 30, 2017 respectively. The legislation requires the FDA to prioritize and complete an expedited review of ANDA applications for generic drugs where there is a shortage or where there is only one current manufacturer and no more than two tentative approvals for other manufacturers. The bills also authorize a study on the REMS program, which allows the FDA to require Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategies from manufacturers of drugs or biological products that have known or potential serious risks. The bill is currently referred to committee.

“Short on Competition Act,” S. 183. Introduced by Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar on January 20, 2017, the Short on Competition Act also addresses drug shortages. In addition to authorizing expedited reviews of ANDA applications, the Act would permit temporary importation of drugs from foreign countries. The bill is currently referred to committee.

“Preserve Access to Affordable Generics Act,” S. 124. On January 12, 2017, Senator Klobuchar (D) introduced a bill directed to prohibiting certain settlement agreements provisions between brand and generic drug companies. The provisions of this Act are mostly subsumed within the more comprehensive “Improving Access to Affordable Prescription Drugs Act.” Senator Klobuchar’s bill has been referred to committee.

Bioloquitur will continue to track legislative proposals throughout the year and report on any relevant developments.

shutterstock_96589270The Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act of 2009 (“BPCIA”) amended Section 351(k) of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C. § 262(k)) in providing ways to obtain licenses for certain biological products via abbreviated applications from the Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) in order to market biosimilar products or interchangeable products for therapeutic uses. According to 42 U.S.C. § 262(i)(1), the term “biological product” is defined as “a virus, therapeutic serum, toxin, antitoxin, vaccine, blood, blood component or derivative, allergenic product, protein (except chemically synthesized polypeptide), or analogous product, or arsphenamine or derivative of arsphenamine (or any other trivalent organic arsenic compound)” useful for preventing, treating, or curing a human disease or condition. By allowing abbreviated applications for biological products biosimilar to, or interchangeable with, FDA-licensed reference biological products, BPCIA could do for therapeutic biological products, similar to what the Hatch-Waxman Act does for small molecule drugs, in fostering the development of generic therapeutic products.

A biosimilar product is a biological product (a) highly similar to a reference product even though there could be minor differences in clinically inactive components; and (b) having no clinically meaningful differences from the reference product regarding safety, purity, and potency (42 U.S.C. § 262(i)(2)). A reference product is a biological product which has obtained a biologics license via 42 U.S.C. § 262(a), i.e., a biological product for which a Biologics License Application (“BLA”) has been approved by the FDA for its introduction into interstate commerce. An interchangeable product is a biological product that (a) is biosimilar to a reference product;  (b) “can be expected to produce the same clinical result as the reference product in any given patient;” and (c) would have a risk based on safety or diminished efficacy not greater than the risk of using the reference product alone without any switch or alternation, when the biological product is switched or alternated with the reference product administered more than once, so that the interchangeable product “may be substituted for the reference product without the intervention of the health care provider who prescribed the reference product.” 42 U.S.C. § 262(i)(3) and (k)(4).

One of the requirements of an abbreviated BLA (“aBLA”) to show that a proposed biological product is interchangeable with a reference product is to demonstrate that the proposed biological product and the reference product are biosimilar. Biosimilarity must be demonstrated with data obtained from (a) analytical studies showing that the proposed biological product and the reference product are highly similar other than minor differences in clinically inactive components; (b) animal studies including toxicity assessments; and (c) a clinical study or studies, including assessments of pharmacokinetics, pharmacodynamics and immunogenicity to show safety, purity, and potency in at least one of the therapeutic uses licensed for the reference product. 42 U.S.C. § 262(k)(2)(A)(i)(I).

As mentioned above, the terms “biosimilar product” and “interchangeable product” pertain to certain biological products, and the term “biological product” covers a number of biological substances. However, regarding guidance on the various studies that should be performed to gather the data or information needed for the aBLA, FDA has taken a stepwise approach in concentrating on only therapeutic protein products so far, but not on other biological products such as viruses, therapeutic sera, etc.  For proposed therapeutic protein products, FDA has published a guidance document on analytical studies that should be conducted to obtain the needed chemistry, manufacturing, and controls (CMC) information relevant to the assessment of whether the reference product and the proposed therapeutic protein product are highly similar.[1] There is also an FDA guidance document pertaining to only proposed therapeutic protein products for gathering data or information in order to demonstrate biosimilarity based on structural studies, functional assays, animal studies, and clinical studies.[2]   Nevertheless, despite the focus of the above mentioned guidance documents on only therapeutic protein products,  FDA did publish a guidance to help sponsors of biosimilar products in general to design and use clinical pharmacology studies to gather pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic data on proposed biological products, without limitation on the types of the biological products.[3]

The FDA guidance documents referred to above concern only the demonstration of biosimilarity, but not interchangeable products per se. In fact, in one of the guidance documents, the FDA cautioned that the document was not intended to present the FDA’s approach to determining interchangeability, which would be dealt with in a separate guidance document.[4] Recently, the FDA finally published a draft guidance on the demonstration of interchangeability for therapeutic protein products.[5] The intention of the draft guidance is to help sponsors in showing that a proposed therapeutic protein product is interchangeable with a reference product. The FDA invited public comments for the draft guidance, and at the closure of the comment period on March 20, 2017, nine public comments have been received.

As pointed out in the draft guidance, to show interchangeability, an aBLA is required to also demonstrate that the proposed biological product is biosimilar to the reference product.[6] In addition, the sponsor of the proposed interchangeable biological product must show that the proposed product is “expected to produce the same clinical result as the reference product in any given patient” as set forth in 42 U.S.C. § 262(k)(4)(A)(ii). Based on this statutory requirement, the FDA expects data and information to show that the proposed interchangeable biological product can be expected to produce the same clinical results as the reference product in all of the conditions of use licensed by the FDA for the reference product.[7] However, that is only a recommendation by the FDA, and the draft guidance indicates that an aBLA is permitted to demonstrate the same clinical results in less than all of the conditions of use.[8] The data and information needed may vary depending on the nature of the proposed interchangeable biological product, and may include (a) any analytical differences between the proposed product and the reference product, and an analysis of the resulting potential clinical impact, if any; (b) “an analysis of the mechanism(s) of action in each condition of use,” including the target receptor(s), binding to the target receptor(s),  molecular signaling associated with the binding, dose or concentration response, the expression and location of the target receptor(s), and the relationship between product structure and interactions with the target receptor(s); (c) pharmacokinetics and distribution of the proposed product in the bodies of different patients; (d) immunogenicity; (e) any differences in expected toxicities in each condition of use and patient population; and (f) any other factor that may influence the efficacy or safety of the proposed product in each condition of use and patient population.[9]

Furthermore, for any biological product expected to be administered more than once, the statute requires that “the risk in terms of safety or diminished efficacy of alternating or switching between use of the biological product and the reference product is not greater than the risk of using the reference product without such alternation or switch,” 42 U.S.C. § 262(k)(4)(B). The FDA expects that the aBLA would present data from a switching study or studies in one or more conditions of use, and that the data will be useful in assessing the safety risk and risk of diminished efficacy of switching or alternating between the proposed product and the reference product.[10]

The draft guidance includes detailed description of the scientific studies recommended by the FDA for the sponsors to perform in order to gather data and information useful for assessing interchangeability.  A discussion of all the scientific studies is beyond the scope of this blog post, which is merely a summary intended to alert the blog readers of the existence of the draft guidance, so that the readers could consult with the draft guidance directly if more scientific information is needed.

The draft guidance shows that more data and information, as a result more studies, would be needed in an aBLA for an interchangeable product, than for a biosimilar product, which is consistent with the statutory requirements. That may explain why as of today the FDA has not approved any interchangeable product, while four biological products have been licensed by the FDA as biosimilar to reference products.[11]  However, a sponsor putting in more effort and expenses for getting a biologics license for an interchangeable product, compared with only a biologics license for a biosimilar product, could be rewarded in at least two ways. First, under the statute, an interchangeable product may be substituted for the corresponding reference product without the intervention of the health care provider who prescribed the reference product. 42 U.S.C. § 262(i)(3). That means if a prescription of the reference product does not specify no generic substitution, a pharmacy could legally fill the prescription by substituting the prescribed reference product with an interchangeable product upon the patient’s request. Second, if the sponsor obtains an FDA license on the first interchangeable product for any condition of use of a reference product, the sponsor will obtain exclusivity so that the FDA will not determine whether a proposed biological product of the second or later aBLA is interchangeable for any condition of use until the earlier of (a) one year after the first commercial marketing of the first interchangeable product licensed for the reference product; (b) 18 months after a final court decision on all patents in suit in an action instituted against the aBLA applicant for the first interchangeable product, or after the dismissal of the court action; or (c) 42 months after approval of the first interchangeable product if the applicant has been sued and such litigation is still ongoing within the 42 months, or 18 months after approval of the first interchangeable product if the applicant has not been sued. 42 U.S.C. § 262(k)(6).

Takeaway

It should be noted that “FDA’s guidance documents do not establish legally enforceable responsibilities.  Instead, guidances describe the Agency’s current thinking on a topic and should be viewed only as recommendations, unless specific regulatory or statutory requirements are cited.”[12] That means the FDA could not properly force a sponsor of a proposed interchangeable therapeutic protein product to perform all the studies mentioned in the guidance documents discussed herein. However, the FDA guidance documents are useful for the sponsor to design studies to be carried out in order to gather the required information to demonstrate that a proposed therapeutic protein product is interchangeable with a reference product because the guidance documents show how the FDA interprets the law pertaining to biosimilar and/or interchangeable products.

[1] See the guidance for industry, Quality Considerations in Demonstrating Biosimilarity of a Therapeutic Protein Product to a Reference Product, April 28, 2015.

[2] See the guidance for industry, Scientific Considerations in Demonstrating Biosimilarity of a Therapeutic Protein Product to a Reference Product, April 28, 2015.

[3] See the guidance for industry, Clinical Pharmacology Data to Support a Demonstration of Biosimilarity to a Reference Product, December 28, 2016.

[4] See Quality Considerations in Demonstrating Biosimilarity of a Therapeutic Protein Product to a Reference Product, 2015, page 4, Section III.

[5] See the draft guidance for industry, Considerations in Demonstrating Interchangeability with a Reference Product, January 17, 2017.

[6] Id, page 3.

[7] Id, page 3, emphasis added.

[8] Id, page 3.

[9] Id, page 3.

[10] Id, page 4.

[11] See CDER List of Licensed Biological Products with (1) Reference Product Exclusivity and (2) Biosimilarity or Interchangeability Evaluations to Date,    https://www.fda.gov/downloads/Drugs/DevelopmentApprovalProcess/HowDrugsareDevelopedandApproved/ApprovalApplications/TherapeuticBiologicApplications/Biosimilars/UCM549201.pdf

[12] See Clinical Pharmacology Data to Support a Demonstration of Biosimilarity to a Reference Product, 2016, page 1.

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.