Case BriefsForeign Courts

Federal Court of Canada: The Bench of Gagné, Associate CJ., upheld the validity of one pneumococcal vaccine patents pertaining to Prevnar 13 owned by Pfizer’s Wyeth LLC while held the other two patents invalid.

Finally, if the Court were to side with Wyeth on the construction of Claim 1, the Court would have to choose a cap on the number of serotypes covered by the invention or…the ambit of Wyeth’s monopoly could grow over the life of the 363 Patent as new serotypes – or their structure – are discovered.

Background

The Merck Canada Inc. and Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp. (together Merck) had sought to  impeach three Canadian patents, one composition patent and two formulation patents, property of Wyeth LLC, pertaining to a 13-valent pneumococcal polysaccharide protein conjugate vaccine commercialized under the name Prevnar® 13. Evidently, Merck had filed a New Drug Submission to sell a 15-valent pneumococcal polysaccharide protein conjugate vaccine [V114] in Canada, apprehending that Wyeth may try to use its patents to block V114 from entering the Canadian market, Merck persuaded to challenge its validity.

Analysis by the Court

Merck argued that each of claims 1 to 6, 13, 14, 17 to 19, 22 to 30 and 36 to 38 of the 363 Patent [the Impugned Claims] were invalid. The 363 Patent was issued on June 16, 2015 which included three groups of claims: (i) Composition Claims; (ii) Use Claims; and (iii) Method/Process Claims. Claim 1 described a multivalent immunogenic composition comprising 13 distinct conjugates prepared from 13 serotypes each individually conjugated to CRM197. The Bench opined that the PSA (Person of Skill in the Art) would have understood that the 363 Patent describe the “next generation” of Wyeth’s conjugate development program and that Wyeth had managed to exceed the known limits of serotype coverage with its PCV-13 and that the 363 Patent describe a “platform” technology disclosing the details of Wyeth’s conjugation technology that were needed in order to replicate its success. The PSA would have used the platform to add other serotypes in a future vaccine, just as Merck did with its V114.

The Bench opined that both Claim 1 and the 363 Patent in its entirety indicated that Claim 1 was limited to 13 serotypes as there were sufficient bases for adding adjuvants, buffers and other excipients. However, there is no basis to go beyond 13 serotypes. Moreover, the Summary of the Invention described the invention as providing a 13-valent pneumococcal conjugate composition comprising the seven serotypes contained in Prevnar 7 (4, 6B, 9V, 14, 18C, 19F and 23F), plus six additional serotypes (1, 3, 5, 6A, 7F and 19A), which was specific and limited. There was no mention in the 363 Patent of a need, a desire, or a basis for adding any other serotype. Again, all of the 16 examples provided in the 363 Patent, which contain instructions needed by the PSA, refer only to the specific 13 serotypes recited in the claims, no others.

Hence, the Bench held that Claim 1 of the 363 Patent was limited to 13 serotypes and did not disclose any “platform” for making a vaccine with greater coverage.

Validity of 368 Patents

 Obviousness

Analyzing the two sets of claims challenged by Merck: i) the Composition Claims; and ii) the Method/Process Claims, the Bench said that Merck had failed to meet the burden to prove that the difference between the inventive concept of the Composition Claims and the state of the art was obvious to the PSA and that the PSA would have expected that if you made the 13-valent PCV conjugated with CRM197, it would be immunogenic. Opining that conjugating is a complex endeavor and that the increasing reports on immune interference could have deterred the skilled person to pursue a 13-valent PCV all conjugated with CRM197, the Bench agreed with Wyeth that the composition of independent Claims 1 and 17 were not found in the prior art. The state of the art did not include an immunogenic composition comprising 13 individual pneumococcal conjugates (including 6A and 19A) using CRM197 as a single carrier protein. Accordingly, the composition Claims 2-5, 18 and 19, which depend directly or indirectly on Claims 1 and/or 17, by adding an adjuvant (or specific adjuvant(s)), were also not obvious at the priority date. Similarly, refuting the obviousness of the process claim, the Bench said that since the Claims 1 and 17 were neither “obvious” nor “obvious to try”, the invention disclosed in the Method/Process Claims would not have been achieved by the PSA without prolonged and arduous experimentation. Therefore, it was not “obvious to try” either.

Validity of the Formulation Patents

The 056 Patent and 111 Patent together were referred to as the Formulation Patents which were assailed by Merck for anticipation, obviousness and double patenting. Regarding the question of obviousness, the Court held that the invention as claimed would have been obvious to the PSA and the Formulation Patents were invalid for obviousness, with the exception of the serotype selection claims that were invalid for double patenting. As 7-valent claims (Claims 19 of the 056 Patent and Claim 20 of the 111 Patent) were obvious as of April 2006. Prevnar 7 had been on the market for years and was well known. Agreeing with  Merck, the Bench held that the formulations disclosed in the Formulation Patents (except for the serotype selection claims) would have been obvious to the PSA in light of the common general knowledge and the state of the art. Similarly, it would have been obvious to try to obtain stability by adding a surfactant. Therefore, there was nothing inventive about trying a surfactant to see if it would work in a polysaccharide-protein conjugate formulation and the same was an obvious solution to a well-known problem.

Double Patenting

The doctrine of double-patenting prevents a patentee from “evergreening” or from extending the monopoly given by a first patent by filing a new patent that did not disclose a new invention to the public. Noticing that the 111 Patent claimed a formulation comprising the same ingredients, the Bench said that as in 2005-2006, the use of a siliconized container means would have been obvious. Also, the 056 Patent broadly claimed a formulation containing one or more polysaccharide protein conjugates, a pH buffered saline solution with a pKa of about 3.5 to 7.5, and a surfactant. Opining that adding a surfactant to a polysaccharide protein conjugate vaccine was routine, common, and would have been obvious, the Bench held that  the claims of the Formulation Patents were all obvious variants of the invention claimed in the 363 Patent that claims a composition of 13 specific pneumococcal polysaccharides conjugated to the carrier protein CRM197 in a buffer with aluminum phosphate. The 13-valent claims (Claims 18 and 20 of the 056 Patent and Claims 19 and 21 of the 111 Patent) of the Formulation Patents were therefore held invalid for obviousness-type double patenting.

Verdict

In the backdrop of above, the Bench opined that Merck had partly succeeded in meeting its burden and in establishing that Claim 1 of the 363 Patent was limited to 13 serotypes and that no particular level of immunogenicity should be read into Claim 1 of the 363 Patent. However, the Bench reached to the conclusion that Claims 1-6, 13-14, 17-19, 22-30, and 36-38 of the 363 Patent were valid, though limited to 13 serotypes. The Formulation Patents were invalid for obviousness, with the exception of the serotype selection claims that were held invalid for double patenting. As a result, Claims 1-3, 6-15, 17-24, and 29-38 of the 056 Patent as well as Claims 1-12, 17-28 of the 111 Patent were held to be invalid, void, unenforceable and of no effect.

[Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp. v. Wyeth LLC, 2021 FC 317, Decided on 30-04-2021]


Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has put this report together 

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: Prathiba M. Singh, J., held that a Canadian Adoption Agency which was recognised for a very long period of time and its’ non-renewal will not result in disbarment from operating as a recognised agency.

Petitioner a Canadian Organisation duly recognized as an authorized foreign adoption agency by the Ontario Ministry of Children and Youth Services, in Canada.

It was stated that the petitioner had a license as an adoption agency for inter-country adoption services since 2003. Petitioners’ license was renewed under Regulation 31(3) of the Adoption Regulations, 2017 under Section 68(c) read with Section 2(3) of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015.

Further, it was stated that the said license remained for a period of 5 years and expired in June, 2018.

When the petitioner applied for the renewal of the license, it was not granted by respondent 2. Hence, the petitioner filed the present petition before this Court seeking an appropriate direction to the respondent authority, to renew its license.

Respondent 2 had submitted that there were alleged irregularities in the adoptions which were facilitated by the Petitioner along with certain non-compliances in submission of the documents such as annual reports, etc. which were required to be submitted in compliance of Regulation 30 and 31(2) of the Adoption Regulations, 2017.

Decision

Bench expressed that considering the petitioner had the license since 2003 and was a recognized adoption agency in Canada. This Court opined that the said non-renewal could not result in permanent disbarment of the petitioner from operating as a recognized adoption agency.

Further, the Court stated that even though the licence was not renewed, the petitioner ought to have an opportunity to apply afresh.

Hence, High Court permitted the petitioner to file a fresh application seeking a licence under the Adoption Regulations, 2017 framed under the scheme of the Juvenile Justice Act. [World View Adoption Assn. v. Union of India, 2021 SCC OnLine Del 196, decided on 22-01-2021]


Advocates for the parties:

For the Petitioners: Ms Neela Gokhale, Ms Harshal Gupta, Ms Shruti Dixit & Mr Kushal Choudhary, Advs.

For the Respondents: Mr Gaurang Kanth, Standing Counsel with Ms Biji Rajesh, Advocate for R-2.

Hot Off The PressNews

Canada has joined the Patent Law Treaty (PLT), designed to streamline formal procedures for national and regional patent applications and patents. WIPO received Canada’s instrument of ratification of the Patent Law Treaty on July 30, 2019. The PLT will enter into force for Canada on October 30, 2019.  Canada’s ratification brings the number of PLT contracting parties to 42.

The ratification to the PLT follows Canada’s accession to three key trademark-related WIPO treaties in June, which underlines Canada’s strong commitment to multilateral engagement with WIPO.

About the Patent Law Treaty

The PLT harmonizes and streamlines formal procedures with respect to national and regional patent applications and patents. It brings the national/regional procedural requirements closer to those applied to international applications under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), where appropriate.

Consequently, the PLT facilitates filing and processing of patent applications by the users of the patent system and increases the efficiency of the operation of patent offices.

Most significantly, the PLT harmonizes the filing date requirements for national/regional patent applications, and provides, under certain conditions, mechanisms to avoid the unintentional loss of rights because of failure to comply with time limits, among others.


[Source: WIPO]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Rajasthan High Court: The Division Bench of Mohammad Rafiq and Goverdhan Bardhar, JJ. dismissed a habeas corpus Petition filed by the petitioner-husband praying for a direction to the respondent- wife to produce before the court the minor child who was a permanent resident of Canada and a citizen of US and cause his return along with the respondent-wife to the jurisdiction of the Court of Canada in compliance of the orders passed by the Superior Court of Justice, Family Court Hamilton, Ontario.

The facts of the case are that the petitioner-husband had alleged that the respondent-wife had wrongly removed their son from his custody. The wife had moved from Ontario, Canada, the place where the three of them were residing at that time, to New York. She then shifted to New Jersey and finally to India along with the son, who was 4 years old at that time. The petitioner challenged this and sought for his custody and his documents like passport, etc. A habeas corpus petition was filed by the husband petitioner, demanding that the wife be directed to produce before the court their son, who was a permanent resident of Canada and was a US citizen, in compliance with orders passed by the Superior Court of Justice, Family Court Hamilton, Ontario. The Canadian Court had also directed various law enforcement agencies including INTERPOL to enforce the custody order. A warrant was also issued against the wife, with imposition of cost of $30,000 upon her.

The High Court, upholding the previously settled law observed that the law has sufficiently developed to rule that despite a pre-existing order for return of a child by a foreign court, the High Court may decline relief for such return. The Court further asserted that the issue should be considered bearing in mind the welfare of the child.

The High Court dismissed the petition of the father stating that the child’s return would not be in his best interests. It observed that if he was forced to go back to Canada in the sole care of his father, it is likely to psychologically disturb him, particularly when he will be required to now adapt to an education system of that country. This would adversely affect his overall growth and grooming as in the absence of his mother.

The Court while dismissing the petition held that  the Court in India are free to decline the relief of return of the child brought within its jurisdiction, if it is satisfied that the child is now settled in its new environment or if it would expose the child to physical or psychological harm or otherwise place the child in an intolerable position or if the child is quite mature and objects to its return. The removal of the child from Ajmer, after he has stayed there for a few years now, would not be in his best interests, especially in view of the fact that he is suffering from chronic asthma and amblyopia. It further opined that it cannot hold the wife guilty of contempt as she cannot be solely held responsible for violation of the settlement terms. The Court gave directions allowing the father to maintain contact with his son. Till the time the child attains majority he shall be kept in the custody of his mother in India. [Naveen Sharma v. State of Rajasthan, 2019 SCC OnLine Raj 63, Order dated 11-01-2019]