Iovate & University of Florida Research Foundation v. Bio-Engineered Supplements & Nutrition (BSN) (Fed. Cir. 2009) (Download 09-1018)
Iovate is the exclusive licensee of UF's patented method for "enhancing muscle performance or recovery from fatigue." Pat. No. 6,100,287. The method includes the single step of administering a coposition that contains a ketoacid and either a cationic or dibasic amino acid. Eschewing their home-state courts, the patentee filed suit in the Eastern District of Texas — alleging that BSN was selling infringing supplements.
On summary judgment, district court judge Ron Clark held the patent invalid as anticipated under 35 U.S.C. 102(b). The most relevant prior art was a series of advertisements found in Flex Magazine.
Each ad includes a list of ingredients, directions for administering the dietary supplement orally to humans, and marketing claims and testimonials from bodybuilders extolling the virtues of the product. . . . The ad also describes how the product is made, including the four steps used to isolate the protein components from milk whey; lists a price of $24.99; states that the product is available at GNC and other health food stores or by phone; instructs the user on the amount to take; and offers a manufacturer’s rebate of $5.00 for mailing in a coupon with proof of purchase before July 31, 1996.
Under § 102(b) a patent is invalid if "the invention was patented or described in a printed publication in this or a foreign country or in public use or on sale in this country, more than one year prior to the date of the application for patent in the United States."
On appeal, the Federal Circuit affirmed, but narrowed its grounds to focus only on the prior art as a "printed publication." Writing in a concurring opinion, Judge Mayer indicated that he would have found that the ads place the products "on sale" as well.
Iovate raised two arguments regarding the prior art. First, the patentee argued that the ads did not disclose each element in the claims because the preamble included the goal of "enhancing muscle performance" and while the ad merely touted promotion of "muscle synthesis and growth." The appellate panel not only rejected that argument, but also found that it "borders on the frivolous" since the specification and Iovate's briefs at the district court suggested that muscle growth was a proxy for enhancing muscle performance.
Iovate also argued that the ad was not sufficiently enabling as prior art. In rejecting that suggestion, the appellate panel held that "all one of ordinary skill in the art would need to do to practice an embodiment of the invention is to mix together the known ingredients listed in the ad and administer the composition as taught by the ad."
This case leave open the question of when an advertisement would be evidence of public use or on sale.