In Aria Diagnostics, Inc. v. Sequenom, Inc., the Federal Circuit vacated and remanded the district court’s decision denying Sequenom’s motion for a preliminary injunction relating to a patent covering the non-invasive Sequenom Down Syndrome test. The Federal Circuit found that the district court had “incorrectly interpreted the asserted claims and improperly balanced factors regarding issuance of a preliminary injunction.” The Federal Circuit also directed the district court to reexamine the patent eligibility issues in view of the Myriad Supreme Court decision, but I do not understand how the claims at issue could be invalid under 35 USC § 101.Continue reading this entry
One of the most interesting arguments that Myriad made in its Motion for Preliminary Injunctive Relief in its infringement action against Ambry Genetics Corporation relates to the database of genetic information that Myriad has developed over its years of conducting BRCA1 and BRCA2 genetic testing. Myriad asserts that the proprietary database makes its testing more accurate than Ambry’s–is the Myriad database Myriad’s trade secret trump card?
On July 9, 2013, Myriad Genetics, Inc. brought suit against Ambry Genetics Corporation, alleging that Ambry is infringing ten (10) patents by offering breast cancer genetic testing for the BRCA1 and/or BRCA2 mutations associated with aggressive forms of breast and ovarian cancer. While Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, Inc. was making its way to the Supreme Court, Myriad said that it has other patent claims protecting its market position. This case could put those claims to the test.Continue reading this entry
On June 13, 2013, the Supreme Court issued its long-awaited decision in the “ACLU/Myriad” gene patents case (Association For Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, Inc.). In a unanimous opinion authored by Justice Thomas, the Court held that “a naturally occurring DNA segment is a product of nature and not patent eligible merely because it has been isolated, but that cDNA is patent eligible because it is not naturally occurring.”Continue reading this entry
March 15, 2013 was a big deadline for patent applicants seeking to secure first-to-invent filing dates for U.S. patent applications, but April 15 will be a big day for the biotechnology industry, when the Supreme Court hears oral arguments in The Association of Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, Inc. (also known as the ACLU/Myriad “gene patent” case). Here I provide a brief summary of the parties’ briefs to the Supreme Court.Continue reading this entry
While the Supreme Court just granted certiorari in Myriad, case law surrounding the patent-eligibility of diagnostic and therapeutic personalized medicine has continued to develop in the wake of Mayo v. Prometheus. The good news for innovators is that the USPTO is still granting patents in the field of personalized medicine. The bad news is that the Federal Circuit is still invalidating claims as “indistinguishable” from those presented by Prometheus.
On August 31, 2012, the Federal Circuit issued an en banc, per curiam opinion deciding both Akamai Technologies, Inc. v. Limelight Networks, Inc. and McKesson Technologies, Inc. v. Epic Systems Corp., which each relate to the requirements for establishing infringement when all of the steps of a method claim are not performed by a single party. The court overruled its 2007 decision in BMC Resources, Inc. v. Paymentech, L.P., and held that induced infringement can be found even if a single entity is not liable for direct infringement. While the cases before the court pertain to computer-related inventions, this decision will be important to patents in the field of personalized medicine, where a doctor, patient, and laboratory may be involved in various steps of a diagnostic or therapeutic method.
Direct Infringement Of Method Claims
The court did not disturb the principle that in order for “a party to be liable for direct patent infringement under 35 U.S.C. § 271(a), that party must commit all the acts necessary to infringe the patent, either personally or vicariously.” The court explained that, “[i]n the context of a method claim, that means the accused infringer must perform all the steps of the claimed method, either personally or through another acting under his direction or control.” Thus, “this court has rejected claims of liability for direct infringement of method claims in cases in which several parties have collectively committed the acts necessary to constitute direct infringement, but no single party has committed all of the required acts,” unless there was ”an agency relationship between the actors.”
Induced Infringement Of Method Claims
The court decided that induced infringement is best suited “to address the problem presented by the cases before us, i.e., whether liability should extend to a party who induces the commission of infringing conduct when no single ‘induced’ entity commits all of the infringing acts or steps but where the infringing conduct is split among more than one other entity.”
The court noted that to be liable for induced infringement, “the accused inducer [must] act with knowledge that the induced acts constitute patent infringement.” Moreover, “inducement gives rise to liability only if the inducement leads to actual infringement.” Revisiting and overruling its decision in BMC, the court reasoned:
Requiring proof that there has been direct infringement as a predicate for induced infringement is not the same as requiring proof that a single party would be liable as a direct infringer. If a party has knowingly induced others to commit the acts necessary to infringe the plaintiff’s patent and those others commit those acts, there is no reason to immunize the inducer from liability for indirect infringement simply because the parties have structured their conduct so that no single defendant has committed all the acts necessary to give rise to liability for direct infringement.
Applying the new interpretation to the cases before it, the court noted:
In the McKesson case, Epic can be held liable for inducing infringement if it can be shown that (1) it knew of McKesson’s patent, (2) it induced the performance of the steps of the method claimed in the patent, and (3) those steps were performed.
* * * * *
[In the Akami case,] Limelight would be liable for inducing infringement if the patentee could show that (1) Limelight knew of Akamai’s patent, (2) it performed all but one of the steps of the method claimed in the patent, (3) it induced the content providers to perform the final step of the claimed method, and (4) the content providers in fact performed that final step.
The court reversed the judgments of non-infringement in both cases, and remanded “for further proceedings on the theory of induced infringement.”
Judge Newman’s Dissent
Judge Newman dissented and criticized the court for failing to resolve the issue of divided direct infringement, and for expanding liability for induced infringement.
This en banc court has split into two factions, neither of which resolves the issues of divided infringement. A scant majority of the court adopts a new theory of patent infringement, based on criminal law, whereby any entity that “advises, encourages, or otherwise induces,” maj. op. 14, or “causes, urges, encourages, or aids the infringing conduct,” id. at 15, is liable for the infringing conduct. The majority further holds that only the “inducer” is liable for divided infringement, and that the direct infringers are not liable although the patent rights are “plainly being violated by the actors’ joint conduct.” Id. at 10. These are dramatic changes in the law of infringement.
Judge Linn’s Dissent
Judge Linn’s dissenting opinion was joined by Judges Dyk, Prost, and O’Malley. These judges disagree with the court’s decision that liability for induced infringement can exist independently of liability for direct infringement:
On this unsound foundation, the majority holds that in the present appeals there has been predicate “infringement” even though § 271(a)’s requirements are not satisfied. On that basis, the majority vacates the contrary judgments of the district courts and remands for further proceedings concerning liability under § 271(b). In my view, the plain language of the statute and the unambiguous holdings of the Supreme Court militate for adoption en banc of the prior decisions of the court in BMC … and Muniauction … , which hold that liability under § 271(b) requires the existence of an act of direct infringement under § 271(a), meaning that all steps of a claimed method be practiced, alone or vicariously, by a single entity or joint enterprise.
Impact On Personalized Medicine Claims
Barring a Supreme Court decision that reverses or refines this holding, the Federal Circuit’s decision in Akami may make it easier to obtain patents in the personalized medicine space that both satisfy 35 USC § 101 as interpreted by the Supreme Court’s Prometheus decision, and that are enforceable against a single infringer or inducer. As I wrote previously, certain aspects of the Prometheus decision encourage method steps that would be carried out by different actors, such as one or more doctors, a testing laboratory, and/or the patient. While it is possible that an agency relationship could link those parties, the holding in Akami may make it easier to assert such patents against an inducer who encourages others to commit some or all of method steps that constitute infringement, even where the parties performing individual steps are acting independently.
On August 16, 2012, just four weeks after it heard oral arguments, the Federal Circuit issued its second decision in Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, Inc. (the ACLU ”gene patenting”/BRCAI case), which was on remand in view of the Supreme Court’s March 20, 2012 decision in Mayo v. Prometheus. The same three-judge panel heard the case on remand, and the judges reached essentially the same results on the interpretation of 35 USC § 101 as set forth in their July 29, 2011 decision. Thus, once again, Judge Lourie wrote the opinion for the court, Judge Moore concurred in the result, and Judge Bryson concurred in part and dissented in part.
All judges agree that at least one plaintiff has standing, that the diagnostic method claims based on “comparing” or “analyzing” DNA sequences are not patent-eligible, and that the drug screening method claim is patent-eligible. The court again held that all of the “isolated DNA” claims are patent-eligible, including those encompassing genomic DNA. Judge Bryson once again dissented with regard to the genomic DNA claims, but agreed with the majority that the cDNA claims satisfy 35 USC § 101.
While it is not surprising that the Federal Circuit reached the same conclusion in this decision, many will be relieved that they maintained the status quo as we move one step closer to final resolution of the issues by the Supreme Court.
For a more detailed review of the decision, please see this August 16, 2012 Foley & Lardner LLP Legal News Alert.
On July 3, 2012, the USPTO issued its 2012 Interim Procedure for Subject Matter Eligibility Analysis 0f Process Claims Involving Laws of Nature. According to the introduction, the guidelines are “for use by USPTO personnel in determining subject matter eligibility of process claims involving laws of nature under 35 USC § 101,” in view of the Supreme Court’s decision in Mayo Collaborative Services v. Prometheus Laboratories, Inc. The guidelines walk a careful line between following Supreme Court precedent without eviscerating the ability to obtain patents on methods that involve laws of nature, natural phenomena, or naturally occurring correlations.Continue reading this entry
Several associations and organizations of intellectual property lawyers submitted amicus briefs in the Federal Circuit remand of Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, Inc. (the ACLU “gene patenting”/BRCA1 case). While many make the same arguments, there are some points that may stand out enough to get the court’s attention.
(See this article for my review of the most interesting amicus briefs, this article for my discussion of the United States amicus brief, and this article for a summary of the parties’ briefs.)Continue reading this entry
Myriad and the ACLU filed their supplemental briefs in the remand of Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, Inc. (the ACLU “gene patenting”/BRCA1 case), addressing the Federal Circuit’s question as to the applicability of the Supreme Court’s decision in Mayo Collaborative Servs. v. Prometheus Labs., Inc. to the patent eligibility of Myriad’s isolated DNA claims and method claim 20 of Myriad’s U.S. Patent 5,747,282. While the parties’ positions are predictable, it is interesting to see how they frame the issues.Continue reading this entry
Eli Lilly filed an interesting amicus brief in the remand of Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, Inc. (the ACLU ”gene patenting”/BRCAI case). The Lilly brief focuses on claim 20 of Myriad’s U.S. Patent 5,747,282, and urges the Federal Circuit to adopt a bright-line rule that would hold any method claim that includes a step that “may be performed mentally” not eligible for patenting under 35 USC § 101. Continue reading this entry
The briefs in the remand of Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, Inc. (the ACLU ”gene patenting”/BRCAI case) were due last Friday, June 15, 2012. While the views of the parties and other amici may be of interest to the Federal Circuit, I am particularly interested in the position taken in the U.S. Department of Justice’s amicus brief. It is disappointing but not surprising that the United States asserts that the Supreme Court’s decision in Mayo Collaborative Services v. Prometheus Laboratories, Inc. supports its position that isolated genomic DNA is not patent-eligible under 35 USC § 101. Continue reading this entry
Pursuant to the Supreme Court’s March 26, 2012 order remanding Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, Inc. (the ACLU ”gene patenting”/BRCAI case), the Federal Circuit has issued an order requesting supplemental briefing to be filed by June 15, 2012. Biotechnology companies interested in the patent-eligibility of newly discovered, biologically relevant DNA sequences (and other similar compounds) should consider filing amicus briefs to explain their views and concerns to the court.
I was honored to be invited by the Washington Legal Foundation to prepare a video commentary on the recent Supreme Court decision in Prometheus and its possible impact on the Myriad isolated DNA case for their Legally Brief series.
Here’s what I had to say:
The day after the Supreme Court issued its unanimous decision in Mayo Collaborative Services v. Prometheus Laboratories, Inc., the USPTO issued a letter to the Patent Examining Corps that provides preliminary guidance to examiners and promises that more detailed guidance is forthcoming.Continue reading this entry
Now that the Supreme Court has issued its unanimous decision reversing the Federal Circuit decision in Prometheus, it is expected to decide the petition for certiorari in Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, Inc. (the ACLU ”gene patenting”/BRCAI case), as early as Monday (March 26). Many are predicting that the Court will issue a “GVR” to grant certiorari only to vacate the Federal Circuit decision that upheld the patent-eligibility of Myriad’s “isolated DNA” claims, and remand the case to the Federal Circuit for rehearing in view of Prometheus. As I try to understand how the Supreme Court’s decision that Prometheus’ method claims do not satisfy 35 § USC 101 because they “effectively claim underlying laws of nature” would impact the Federal Circuit’s decision that Myriad’s isolated DNA claims satisfy 35 § USC 101 because they “cover molecules that are markedly different—have a distinctive chemical identity and nature—from molecules that exist in nature,” I am frightened by a line of reasoning that could undermine the patent-eligibility of a host of pharmaceutical and biological products. Continue reading this entry
On March 20, 2012, Justice Breyer issued the unanimous decision for the Supreme Court in Mayo Collaborative Services v. Prometheus Laboratories, Inc., holding that Prometheus’ claims directed to methods of optimizing the dose of specific drugs used in the treatment of specific conditions are invalid under 35 USC § 101 because they impermissibly claim laws of nature. The Court’s decision reverses the Federal Circuit, which had twice upheld the validity of the claims at issue. While the Court’s opinion provides additional touchstones for distinguishing claims directed to laws of nature (not patent-eligible) from claims directed to specific applications of laws of nature (patent-eligible), because it erases the bright line of the Federal Circuit’s machine-or-transformation test, stakeholders will have to undertake a fact-specific, case-by-case, and (at least for the time being) uncertain analysis in order to determine whether given personalized medicine method claims satisfy § 101.Continue reading this entry
At first glance, the Federal Circuit decision in Cybersource Corp. v. Retail Decisions, Inc. may not be of much interest to those in the pharmaceutical field. The patent at issue relates to a “method and system for detecting fraud in a credit card transaction” and the question before the court was whether various computer-related claim limitations made the claims patent-eligible under 35 USC § 101 under the Supreme Court’s Bilksi decision. However, at least one aspect of the court’s decision may raise concerns for patent applicants in personalized medicine fields—the court’s decision to ignore carefully crafted claim language in order to assess the patent-eligibility of the “underlying” invention.
On August 31, 2011, the Federal Circuit issued its second decision in Classen Immunotherapies, Inc. v. Biogen Idec, which was on remand from the Supreme Court after Bilski v. Kappos. Judge Newman wrote the opinion for the court, which was joined by Chief Judge Rader, and holds that two of the three asserted patents recite patent-eligible subject matter under 35 USC § 101. The court also finds that the “safe harbor” of 35 USC § 271(e)(1) only applies in the context of obtaining pre-marketing regulatory approval, and so did not prevent some of Classen’s infringement claims relating to studies of already-approved vaccines. While this decision raises some questions as it answers others, the Federal Circuit provides useful guidance for evaluating the patent-eligibility of method claims that involve some type of information gathering.
There is much in the Classen opinions that warrants further analysis and commentary, but for now I provide this synopsis of the main points.
As I wrote yesterday, the ACLU filed a Petition for Panel Rehearing in Association for Molecular Pathology v. USPTO, also known as the ACLU/Myriad “gene patenting” case, alleging factual and legal errors in the court’s July 29, 2011 decision on both the standing issue and the patent-eligibility issue. I was not impressed by the ACLU’s standing arguments, and now Myriad has filed its own Petition for Panel Rehearing challenging the standing of the ACLU plaintiffs. Because standing is a threshold issue, and because the factual basis of standing has changed, it is possible that the Federal Circuit will grant Myriad’s motion and rehear the case, at least on the standing issue.
As reported by Kevin Noonan on Patent Docs, plaintiffs-appellees (e.g., the ACLU) have filed a Petition for Panel Rehearing in Association for Molecular Pathology v. USPTO, also known as the ACLU/Myriad “gene patenting” case. The Petition alleges factual and legal errors in the court’s July 29, 2011 decision on both the standing issue and the patent-eligibility issue, but is not likely to be granted. While the petition may foreshadow the arguments being formulated for Supreme Court review, its most likely effect will be to delay that review, further extending the period of uncertainty that is hanging over isolated DNA claims.
On July 29, 2011, the Federal Circuit issued its decision in Association for Molecular Pathology v. USPTO, also known as the ACLU/Myriad “gene patenting” case. In a mixed decision, the court held that “isolated DNA” claims are patent-eligible under 35 USC § 101, but that the “comparing” or “analyzing” method claims are not. With a 55 page opinion authored by Judge Lourie, a 31 page concurrence-in-part authored by Judge Moore, and a 19 page dissent-in-part authored by Judge Bryson, there is much to be analyzed before the full impact of this decision—and the contours of the holdings—will be understood.
On April 4, 2011, Judges Lourie, Bryson and Moore at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit heard oral arguments in Association for Molecular Pathology v. USPTO, also known as the ACLU/Myriad “gene patenting” case. This case has garnered extraordinary attention from the biotech, pharmaceutical, and health care industries, from academic and government researchers, from breast cancer patients and their families, and from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) itself.
These groups disagree on the fundamental legal question of whether isolated DNA should be eligible for a patent, and also disagree on the fundamentally political question of whether the patenting of genes promotes or stifles innovation and development of new diagnostics and therapies. While the Federal Circuit’s decision in this case will be important, further resolution of the issues is likely to come from the Supreme Court. The ultimate decision could have a profound effect on existing intellectual property rights, and could impact current and future patent strategies, particularly in biotechnology-related fields.