All posts by Jordan Duenckel

Building a Better BOTOX®? PGR and Enablement

Guest Post by Jordan Duenckel.  Jordan is a third-year law student at the University of Missouri, head of our IP student association, and a registered patent agent.  He has an extensive background in chemistry and food science.

Medytox, Inc. has appealed a decision made by the Patent Trial and Appeal Board regarding a post-grant review proceeding under the new Pilot Program. Medytox’s motion to amend the claim language, which aimed to substitute claims 19–27 of U.S. Patent No. 10,143,728 (‘728 patent), was denied by the Board for lack of enablement. Additionally, Medytox questions the Board’s Pilot Program regarding motion to amend practice and procedures under the Administrative Procedure Act. In Medytox v. Galderma, 2022-1165, — F.4th — (Fed. Cir. Jun. 27, 2023), Judge Reyna (joined by Judges Dyk and Stark) affirmed the Board’s determinations involving claim construction, enablement, arbitrary and capricious behavior under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA).

The ’728 patent is directed to the use of an animal-protein-free botulinum toxin composition that exhibits a longer-lasting effect in the patient compared to an animal protein-containing botulinum toxin composition. ’728 Patent, col. 2 ll. 57–62. Used to treat glabellar wrinkle lines and possibly chronic migraines, this botulinum toxin is claimed to have a greater length of efficacy than BOTOX®. While a deadly foodborne pathogen that can be present in canned food, modified botulinum toxin can be used as a cosmetic treatment in reducing wrinkling as well as other aesthetic applications.

Galderma S.A. submitted a petition for post-grant review of claims 1–10 of the ‘728 patent. Following the PTAB granting review, Medytox filed a motion to amend that sought to cancel claims 1–10 and introduce claims 11–18 instead. Medytox also requested the Board to provide Preliminary Guidance based on the Pilot Program, which relates to the practice and procedures for motions to amend. The Pilot Program allows a patent owner to receive Preliminary Guidance from the Board regarding its motion or to file a revised motion to amend. The Preliminary Guidance is an initial nonbinding discussion about whether there is a reasonable likelihood that the motion to amend meets the statutory and regulatory requirements. Read more about the Pilot Program here, 84 Fed. Reg. 9,497.

Galderma S.A. objects to the new claims claiming that they introduce new matter that is not disclosed in the specification. The new claim language claims that the responder rate at sixteen weeks is a range between 50% and 100%. The responder rate, in the context of the ’728 patent, is the proportion of patients who responded favorably to the animal protein-free botulinum composition expressed as a percentage. Galderma asserts that the original specification only discloses a responder rate up to 62% so anything above that is a range that is not fully enabled. The preliminary guidance was issued by the Board and stated that Medytox did not show a reasonable likelihood that the requirements of 35 U.S.C. § 326(d) and 37 C.F.R. § 42.221(a) were met to file a motion to amend. Significantly, the Board also gave its “preliminary view” that Medytox’s proposed responder-rate limitation did not add new matter. In order to comply with statutory and regulatory requirements, Medytox filed a revised motion to amend which was denied due to the introduction of new matter.

The responder rate substitute claim language was determined to have a scope of 50% to 100% based on the claim construction. Medytox relies on multiple clinical trials in their specification to show the actual responder rate that they attained. However, the highest rate achieved was 62% leaving a significant portion of the range unenabled with no clear direction on how to enable the rest of the claims. Relying on the Wands factors to conclude that the full scope of the claim was not enabled without undue experimentation.

Judge Reyna also references the recent Amgen v. Sanofi to require that the full scope of the claims must be enabled. Not enabling such a large range of the scope of the claims makes the lack of enablement seem more clear-cut in light of Amgen. While a different factual background from Amgen, not providing clear instructions to enable 76% of the claimed range is a more clear example of not enabling the full scope than the monoclonal antibodies of Amgen.

Medytox also challenges that the Board’s revision of its claim construction of the responder rate limitation made between its Preliminary Guidance and final written decision violated the Administrative Procedure Act (“APA”) because it was arbitrary and capricious and deprived it of a full and fair opportunity to litigate. Citing 5 U.S.C. § 706(2)(A), Medytox specifically asserts that the Board reversed its decision based on a nearly identical record rending the reversal arbitrary and capricious. The USPTO Director intervened to explain that the Board’s Preliminary Guidance was “initial, preliminary, and nonbinding.”

Likewise, the significant extrinsic evidence that warranted the reversal of the determination was developed after the Preliminary Guidance was issued. The claim construction regarding the responder rate limitation, expert testimony, briefing regarding written description, and subsequent oral argument on the limitation were all developed after the Preliminary Guidance. Based on the totality of the record, the reversal of the claim construction was not arbitrary and capricious. The guidance program is meant to be an effort to provide some direction to the patent owner and not be a binding decision. At oral arguments, the Board expressed multiple concerns about the responder rate limitation and Medytox did not adequately remedy the issue. As such, the Board had plenty of evidence to base their reversal.

Bringing Home the Bacon with Joint Inventorship

Guest Post by Jordan Duenckel.  Jordan is a second-year law student at the University of Missouri, head of our IP student association, and a registered patent agent.  He has an extensive background in chemistry and food science.

HIP, Inc., v. Hormel Foods Corp., 2022-1696, — F.4th — (Fed. Cir. May 2, 2023)

Joint inventorship requires a substantial contribution to the invention. In the decision HIP, Inc. vs. Hormel, Judge Lourie writes for a unanimous panel to reverse a district court’s determination of joint inventorship involving a new process for precooking bacon. US Patent 9,980,498 has four inventors that are employees of and assigned their interest to Hormel.  HIP sued Hormel, alleging that David Howard was either the sole inventor or a joint inventor of the ’498 patent. The district court determined that Howard was a joint inventor based solely on his alleged contribution to the infrared preheating concept in independent claim 5.  

Bacon is an interesting food with unique preservation and cooking properties. Being a cured product, for food safety reasons, no additional cooking of the bacon is needed when bought off the shelf in a refrigerated section. Of course, most people are not consuming the bacon without additional cooking and some companies will precook the product for consumer convenience. When precooking, Hormel is trying to avoid the loss of salt, and therefore flavor, through condensation and prevent the creation charred off flavors (as opposed to the desirable char on a steak).  

 In the process of viability testing the new method, prior to filing the application, the inventors consulted with David Howard of Unitherm, HIP’s predecessor, to discuss methods related to Unitherm’s cooking equipment to create a two-step process of preheating then a higher temperature step. After some difficulties, Hormel leased the equipment and returned to their own R&D lab. The method created, the subject matter of the ‘498 patent, involves a first step that allows the fat of the bacon to seal the surface of the bacon and prevent condensation. The charring was remedied by adjusting the heating method of the oven in the second step of high-temperature cooking. In Hormel’s product development, Hormel tried an infrared oven and a conventional spiral oven.

HIP argued that Howard contributed to the ‘498 patent in the preheating by hot air in claim 5 and/or preheating with an infrared oven in claim 5.  Claim Five reads in the relevant part:  

  1. A method of making precooked meat pieces using a hybrid cooking system, comprising: preheating meat pieces in a first cooking compartment using a preheating method selected from the group consisting of a microwave oven, an infrared oven, and hot air to a temperature of at least 140º F. to create preheated meat pieces…

On appeal, Hormel argues that Howard’s contribution is well-known in the art and insignificant when measured against the full invention. With inventorship being a question of law, and the issuance of a patent creating a presumption of inventorship, an alleged joint inventor must provide clear and convincing evidence to substantiate their claim. In evaluating whether a significant contribution was made by Howards, the parties apply the test from Pannu v. Iolab Corp., 155 F.3d 1344, 1351 (Fed. Cir. 1998). The test requires that the alleged joint inventor: 

(1) contributed in some significant manner to the conception of the invention; (2) made a contribution to the claimed invention that is not insignificant in quality, when that contribution is measured against the dimension of the full invention; and (3) did more than merely explain to the real inventors well-known concepts and/or the current state of the art. 

Analyzing the second Pannu factor, the Court found that the alleged contribution of preheating meat pieces using an infrared oven to be insignificant in quality because it was mentioned only once in the patent specification as an alternative heating method to a microwave oven and was recited only once in one Markush grouping in a single claim. In contrast, preheating with microwave ovens and microwave ovens themselves were prominently featured throughout the specification, claims, and figures. The examples and corresponding figures also employed procedures using preheating with a microwave oven, but not preheating with an infrared oven.  

Infrared heating seems to have been an afterthought in the creation of the two-step precooking method. Whatever discussions Howard might have had about the importance of the infrared, Hormel seems to have focused on microwave heating to solve the condensation problem. From one step further back, it seems absurd to permit joint ownership by a cooking equipment manufacturer when the significant discoveries and refinements of the methods were made in Hormel’s R&D facility without Howard present. The prevention of condensation and avoiding the char flavor were both made independent of Howard’s contributions. Considering the second Pannu factor, the reversal of inventorship seems appropriate.  

Obviousness and Stereochemistry

Amgen Inc., v. Sandoz Inc. 22-1147, — F.4th — (Fed. Cir. Apr. 19, 2023)

Jordan is a second-year law student at the University of Missouri and a registered patent agent.  He has an extensive background in chemistry and food science.

Amgen markets apremilast, a phosphodiesterase-4 (“PDE4”) inhibitor, which is used for treating psoriasis and related conditions, under the brand name Otezla® which is covered by three patents, U.S. Patents 7,427,638, 7,893,101, and 10,092,541. Sandoz submitted an Abbreviated New Drug Application (“ANDA”) seeking approval market a generic version of apremilast. Celgene, the original plaintiff, brought this Hatch-Waxman suit, asserting that Sandoz’s generic product would infringe the ’638 and ’101 patents. The Federal Circuit affirms the district court’s findings on all issues raised.

Sandoz asserts that U.S. Patent 6,020,358 renders the Amgen patents obvious. The ’358 patent is the first U.S. patent describing a racemic mixture containing apremilast. Enantiomers detail the orientation of the molecule around a chiral center and can have vastly different therapeutic outcomes and clinical results between the (+) and (-) enantiomers, particularly thalidomide analogues. The critical difference between the ‘358 and ‘638 patents is the composition of the mixture:

The ’358 patent is a racemic mixture comprised of 50% of the (+) enantiomer of 2-[1-(3-ethoxy-4-methoxyphenyl)-2-methylsulfonylethyl]-4acetylaminoisoindoline-1,3-dione and 50% of the (-) enantiomer.

Compare to an excerpt of Amgen’s language in claim three of ‘638:

A pharmaceutical composition comprising stereomerically pure (+)2-[1-(3- ethoxy-4-methoxyphenyl)-2- methylsulfonylethyl]-4- acetylaminoisoindoline-1,3-dione, or a pharmaceutically acceptable salt, …

The ’638 Patent: Sandoz failed to provide clear and convincing evidence at the district court to show that a skilled artisan would have reasonably expected a benefit from separating the enantiomers or that the (+) enantiomer was the cause of the desirable properties of the ‘358 formulation. Sandoz’s appeal asserts that the district court erred in its findings.

At the Federal Circuit, Judge Lourie, writing for a unanimous panel of Judges Cunningham and Stark, focuses on the unexpected potency of apremilast discovered relative to the apremilast-containing racemic mixture during testing and experimentation. At the district court, the named inventor, Dr. Schafer, testified that the stereomerically pure apremilast reduces the production of tumor necrosis factor alpha (“TNFα”), the factor that is linked to psoriasis, 20 times more effectively than the previous patent.

Dr. Schafer also says that a skilled artisan would expect a twofold improvement in efficiency. The district court finds that the 20-fold difference, when an otherwise two-fold difference would have been expected by the skilled artisan was sufficient to support a finding of an unexpected result and subsequent nonobviousness. A 20-fold difference from the steromerically isolated formulation goes well beyond a difference in degree into a difference in kind.

It strikes me as interesting that the characteristics of apremilast were largely left undiscussed. Apremilast is a thalidomide analogue and safety concerns about the infamously teratogenic effects related to thalidomide were sufficient skepticism for a skilled artisan and the industry at large regarding stereomerically pure formulations. However, it would seem that this teratogenicity could cut both ways as a skilled artisan would have ample incentives to investigate the enantiomers separately for safety concerns in light of the thalidomide paradox.

The thalidomide paradox provides that racemic mixtures and pure enantiomers have different characteristics, despite in vivo racemization. If the molecule is sufficiently analogous to thalidomide, it seems that a skilled artisan would be inclined to be taught towards separating the enantiomers. Regardless, the unexpected result was found to be dispositive on appeal and the objective indicia weren’t necessary but the other findings of the objective indicia of long-felt need, others had tried and failed, industry skepticism, and commercial success were also affirmed.

           The ’101 Patent: Sandoz also alleges that the ’101 patent should have been found to be obvious. Sandoz says the ‘101 patent should not be entitled to the priority date of March 2002 because the  ’515 provisional application did not inherently disclose crystalline Form B of apremilast and therefore did not satisfy the written description requirements of 35 U.S.C. § 112. The district court relies on a finding that ‘515 application did inherently disclose the crystalline form.

The Federal Circuit did not find it necessary to delve into inherent disclosure because a review of the trial record shows Amgen provided multiple experiments, and expert testimony, showing that there was actual disclosure of the crystalline Form B. Absent any contrary evidence by Sandoz, the priority date and subsequent finding of nonobviousness were affirmed. Another win chalked up to Amgen’s excellent expert testimony.

            The ’541 Patent: On cross-appeal, Amgen asserts that the district court finding that the patent is obvious in light of prior art is erroneous. The district court found that the ’541 patent would have been obvious over the prior art or in crediting expert testimony stating that dose-titration modification would have been routine to a skilled artisan. Specifically, dose titration would be something that is regularly done in the treatment of psoriasis.

IPRs and the APA: Review of Director’s Discretion to Initiate IPRs

By Jordan Duenckel.  Jordan is a second-year law student at the University of Missouri School of Law and a registered patent agent. 

Apple brought an action against the USPTO Director Vidal in district court under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), 5 U.S.C. §§ 701– 706, challenging the Director’s instructions to the Board regarding exercise of discretion in IPR institution decisions. In Apple v. Vidal, 2022-1249, — F.4th — (Fed. Cir. Mar. 13, 2023), Judge Taranto (joined by Judges Lourie and Stoll) largely affirmed the district court’s dismissal, confirming that the Director’s instructions are unreviewable.  The court did separately reverse a tertiary challenge to allow Apple to proceed on a claim related to the note-and-comments procedure of the APA. 

Apple and other repeat players in patent infringement litigation often use the inter partes review process under 35 U.S.C. §§ 311–319 to challenge the validity of asserted patents. The statute provides a two-step IPR process: Step 1 is the institution decision by the Director under § 314(b); Step 2 is the trial and final written decision by the PTAB.   

At least two prerequisites assist the Director in deciding to grant review: [1] a reasonable likelihood that the petitioner would prevail in 35 U.S.C. § 314(a) and [2] a petition must be filed within one year after service of the infringement complaint. § 315(b). Even if these conditions are met, the Director has unreviewable discretion over whether to initiate an IPR. The statutory text is seemingly as clear as a statute can be: “The determination by the Director whether to institute an inter partes review under [§ 314] shall be final and non-appealable.” 35 U.S.C. § 314(d); see also United States v. Arthrex, Inc., 141 S. Ct. 1970, 1977 (2021).   

From the outset of the IPR program, the Director delegated institution authority to the Board. 37 C.F.R. § 42.4(a). Practically, without this delegation, Director Vidal would spend a disproportional amount of time reviewing IPR petitions at the expense of other duties of the office, although she could have delegated responsibility to other agency departments such as the petitions division.  The right of delegation of the institution is settled law. See Ethicon Endo-Surgery, Inc. v. Covidien LP, 812 F.3d 1023, 1031–32 (Fed. Cir. 2016).  

At issue in Apple v. Vidal are the so-called Fintiv instructions issued by the Director based on Apple Inc. v. Fintiv, Inc., IPR2020-00019, 2020 WL 2126495 (P.T.A.B. Mar. 20, 2020) which provides six factors for analysis of whether to institute an IPR parallel to pending litigation.   

Proposing an analysis under the arbitrary and capricious standard, Apple and the other petitioners are directly focused now not on the denial of a specific petition for IPR review but as a general challenge to the Director’s instructions to the PTAB about how to exercise the delegated discretion.   

Slip Op. The district court ruled that 35 U.S.C. § 314(d) “precludes judicial review” of the challenged agency actions, bringing the case within the APA exclusion stated in 5 U.S.C. § 701(a)(1). According to this court, the IPR statute’s preclusion was settled by the Supreme Court in Arthrex and encompasses review of content-focused challenges to the Fintiv instructions. § 314(d) provides the clearest congressional delegation of nonreviewable discretion possible and the panel rightfully relied on plain-meaning and clear Supreme Court precedent.    

While affirming the dismissal of the content-based claims, the court separates the procedural requirements set forth in the APA. Reversing the district court in part, Judge Taranto’s panel opinion reopened Apple’s claim that the Director was required, by 35 U.S.C. § 116 together with 5 U.S.C. § 553, to promulgate institution instructions through notice-and-comment rulemaking procedures.  Slicing the procedure from the underlying substance of the rule, Taranto relies on Lincoln v. Vigil, 508 U.S. 182, 195 (1993) to clarify that the 5 U.S.C. § 553 provides the basis for rulemaking through the notice-and-comment procedure for the Director’s instructions and is a separate analysis of reviewability from the substance of the instructions. 

Standing was also preemptively addressed for the remand proceedings. Lujan provides the three-step test: injury-in-fact, causation, and redressability. In search of a particularized, concrete injury, the court takes notice that Apple is a repeat player with a history of IPR claims being denied. This past injury was used to show the eminency of future injury resulting from the denial of the benefits of IPRs linked to the concrete interest possessed by an infringement defendant. Redressability and causation were met because there is a genuine possibility that the instructions would be changed in a way favorable to Apple in notice-and-comment rulemaking.  

The Federal Circuit may have reached a bit to find standing in an effort to effectively resolve concerns about a heavily used procedure: the IPR process. On remand, the district court might rightly decide that a traditional notice-comment rulemaking procedure is required to redress harms or prophylactically provide clarifications for the patent system that can accomplish the goals of using agency resources effectively. Allowing the frequent fliers of the IPR system to at least have an appearance of input in the procedure would create a process with more certainty and produce more long-term economic efficiency.