Monday, March 21, 2016

Sequenom Petitions Supreme Court for Review of Ariosa Decision

Sequenom today filed a Petition for Writ of Certiorari asking the Supreme Court to review Ariosa Diagnostics v. Sequenom, an important patent eligibility case described in previous posts (see for example).  If the Court grants certiorari, it will be the sixth grant of certiorari on the issue of patent eligibility in the last decade (the first was LabCorp v. Metabolite, a case that was fully briefed and argued but ultimately dismissed because certiorari had been “improvidently granted”).  Significantly, it would be the fourth case in which the patent relates to diagnostic testing (LabCorp, Mayo, and Myriad where the other three).  The petition for certiorari is available here.

 As framed by Sequenom, the question presented is:
Whether a novel method is patent-eligible where: (1) a researcher is the first to discover a natural phenomenon; (2) that unique knowledge motivates him to apply a new combination of known techniques to that discovery; and (3) he thereby achieves a previously impossible result without preempting other uses of the discovery?

Sequenom argues that the Federal Circuit’s interpretation of Mayo will have catastrophic effects on biomedical innovation, likely precluding effective patent protection for important inventions such as vaccines, methods of pharmaceutical treatment, and most particularly methods of diagnostics.  Pointing to three opinion penned by Federal Circuit judges in the denial of en banc rehearing, Sequenom argues that the Federal Circuit believes that its hands have been tied by the broad language of Mayo, and that only the Supreme Court can address the situation.
Sequenom argues that the Federal Circuit’s decision below has exacerbated the confusion created by Mayo “by jettisoning the one reliable compass this Court has identified for Section 101 cases-the patent’s ‘preemptive’ scope.”  Their brief posits that under the Federal Circuit’s interpretation of Mayo, a number of historic inventions would have failed the test for patent eligibility, including the method at issue in Diehr (which the Supreme Court found to be patent eligible in 1981), the invention claimed in the very first patent issued in the U.S. (which was signed by George Washington after being reviewed by Thomas Jefferson), and PCR.
The petition argues that this case is an ideal vehicle for clarifying Mayo, pointing out that “this is an extremely well-ventilated patent, with a far-more-developed record than is usual for Section 101 cases.”  For example, the claims have been construed and the patent has already undergone inter partes review.  In addition, the patent includes not only relatively broad independent claims, but also narrower dependent claims that “refine down to the level of individual tests.”

According to Sequenom, supporting amicus briefs will need to be filed no later than April 20.  I would expect to see a number of those.  Quite a few were filed with the Federal Circuit in support of en banc rehearing - many of them can be found in previous posts on my blog.

Friday, March 18, 2016

PTAB Denies Institution of IPR for Amgen’s ENBREL Patent

On March 11, 2016, the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) denied institution of Inter Partes Review (IPR) for U.S. Patent Number 8,163,522.  This is an important biotechnology patent, directed towards polynucleotides encoding a fusion protein comprising the extracellular region of an insoluble human TNF receptor and “all of the domains of the constant region of human IgG1 immunoglobulin heavy chain other than the first domain of said constant region.”  The ‘522 patent is owned by Hoffman-La Roche and exclusively licensed to Amgen - according to Amgen, the patent would be infringed by the marketing ofa biosimilar version of Amgen’s Enbrel.

The petition for IPR was brought by a group including Hayman Capital, Kyle Bass, and the Coalition for Affordable Medicine (hereinafter I will refer to the group as simply the “Coalition”).  The Coalition has made a name for itself filing IPR challenges on pharmaceutical patents and then essentially betting against the targeted companies (as discussed in a previous post).  In its petition challenging the ‘522 patent, the Coalition cited several prior art patents that disclose DNA sequences encoding the TNF receptor and immunoglobulin fusion proteins, and argued that it would have been obvious to combine the references to arrive at the claimed invention.

In denying institution of IPR, the Board found that the Coalition had “failed to show an articulated reason with a rational underpinning why one of skill in the art would have combined the teachings of [the cited prior art] to arrive at the claimed invention.”  All of the prior art cited by the Coalition was before the patent examiner during prosecution of the patent, and this appeared to weigh against its case.  Furthermore, the Board pointed out that the Coalition had not adequately addressed the objective indicia of nonobviousness presented to the Office during the prosecution of the patent.  This included “expert testimony concerning the unexpected results of improved TNF binding affinity, potency, kinetic stability, and reduced antibody effector function and aggregation ability.”

A decision to institute IPR would have been good news for Sandoz.  In a lawsuit filed February 26, 2016, Amgen charges Sandoz with infringing the ‘522 patent, based on FDA’s acceptance of Sandoz’s abbreviated Biologics License Application (“aBLA”) seeking approval to market a biosimilar version of Enbrel.  See Immunex Corp. v. Sandoz Inc., Case No. 2:16-cv-01888 (D.N.J.) (complaint).

In 2013, Sandoz had filed a declaratory judgment action seeking a determination that the ‘522 patent is invalid or would not be infringed by its biosimilar version of Enbrel.  In that case, however, the Federal Circuit upheld the district court’s decision to dismiss the case for lack of standing, given that at the time Sandoz had not filed an application for FDA approval to market a biosimilar version of Enbrel.  See Sandoz Inc. v. Amgen Inc., 773 F.3d 1274, 1275 (Fed. Cir. 2014).




Thursday, March 10, 2016

Copyright for Engineered DNA (Part 3)

The third installment of my series of blog posts on copyright for engineered DNA is now available on the GQ Life Sciences Blog for anyone who might be interested.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Copyright for Engineered DNA (Part 2)

Part 2 of my series of posts on the topic of Copyright for Engineered DNA on the GQ Life Sciences Blog is now available here.