In Teva Parenteral Medicines, Inc.; APP Pharmaceuticals LLC; Pliva Hrvatska D.O.O.; Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc.; and Barr Laboratories, Inc. (hereinafter referred to be as Defendants/Appellants/Teva) Vs. Eli Lilly & Co. (hereinafter referred to as Plaintiff/Appelle/Eli Lilly) decided by United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) on January 12, 2017, Plaintiff had filed Hatch Waxman suit against defendant to prevent them from launching generic version of the lung cancer drug whose rights are reserved with the plaintiff. The decision from CAFC came after an appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana in No. 1:10-cv-01376-TWPDKL, Judge Tanya Walton Pratt.
Eli Lilly owns a patent US 7772209 (hereinafter referred to as US‘209) issued in 2010, relating to method of treatment administering the chemotherapy drug pemetrexed disodium (hereinafter referred to as “pemetrexed”) (used to treat certain types of lung cancer and mesothelioma) after pretreatment with two common vitamins—folic acid and vitamin B12 (reduce the toxicity of pemetrexed in patients). Eli Lilly markets pemetrexed under the brand name ALIMTA®.
In 2008-2009, Defendants notified Eli Lilly that they had submitted ANDA seeking approval to market generic version of ALIMTA®. After issuance of US’209 patent, Teva sent additional notice that they had filed Para IV certifications, declaring that US’209 patent was invalid, unenforceable, or would not be infringed. Subsequent to which Eli Lilly alleged Teva of induced infringement. Eli Lilly asserted that Teva’s generic drug would be administered with folic acid and vitamin B12 pretreatments and thus will result in infringement of the 209 patent.
Eli Lilly asserted claims 9, 10 (dependent on claim 1), Independent claim 12, and its dependent claims 14, 15, 18, 19, and 21 of the US’209 patent at trial.
Independent claims 1 and 12 have been reproduced below for reference:
A method of administering pemetrexed disodium to a patient in need thereof comprising administering an effective amount of folic acid and an effective amount of a methylmalonic acid lowering agent followed by administering an effective amount of pemetrexed disodium, wherein the methylmalonic acid lowering agent is selected from the group consisting of vitamin B12, hydroxycobalamin, cyano-10-chlorocobalamin, aquocobalamin perchlorate, aquo-10-cobalamin perchlorate, azidocobalamin, cobalamin, cyanocobalamin, or chlorocobalamin.
An improved method for administering pemetrexed disodium to a patient in need of chemotherapeutic treatment, wherein the improvement comprises:
- a) administration of between about 350 μg and about 1000 μg of folic acid prior to the first administration of pemetrexed disodium;
- b) administration of about 500 μg to about 1500 μg of vitamin B12, prior to the first administration of pemetrexed disodium; and
- c) administration of pemetrexed disodium.
It is important to note that current case involves issue of induced infringement i.e. a type of indirect infringement that may be committed under section 271 (b) (dealing with infringement of Patents).
In June 2013, Defendants conditionally conceded induced infringement under then-current law set forth in Akamai Technologies, Inc. v. Limelight Networks, Inc. (Akamai II) which at that time was the subject of a petition to the Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari. The parties’ stipulation included a provision reserving Defendants’ right to litigate infringement if the Supreme Court reversed or vacated Akamai II.
District court had rejected contentions of the defendant that Patent was invalid for obviousness or obviousness-type double patenting and also due to indefiniteness of the term vitamin B12.
Defendants filed an appeal on invalidity. While that appeal was pending, the Supreme Court reversed Akamai II, holding that liability for inducement cannot be found without direct infringement, and remanding for CAFC court to possibly reconsider the standards for direct infringement. In view of that development, the parties in this case filed a joint motion to remand the matter to the district court for the limited purpose of litigating infringement. CAFC granted the motion.
The district court held a second bench trial in May 2015 and concluded in a decision issued on August 25, 2015 that Defendants would induce infringement of the US’209 patent. This was after considering the effect of Akamai V decision, which had broadened the circumstances in which others’ acts may be attributed to a single actor to support direct infringement liability in cases of divided infringement.
Below given factors are taken into consideration while deciding cases of induced infringement:
- Whoever actively induces infringement of a patent shall be liable as an Infringer;
- There cannot be indirect infringement without direct infringement;
- Patentee needs to prove alleged infringer knew or should have known his actions would induce actual infringements; and
- Standard of proof required by Patentee to claim relief under induced infringement is ‘preponderance of the evidence’.
It was agreed by parties that Defendants’ proposed product labeling would be materially the same as the ALIMTA® product labeling and consists of two documents: the Physician Prescribing Information and the Patient Information. District court found that both the documents included instructions regarding the administration of folic acid—the step that the district court found would be performed by patients but attributable to physicians.
According to Akamai V, where no single actor performs all steps of a method claim, direct infringement only occurs if the acts of one are attributable to the other such that a single entity is responsible for the infringement. The performance of method steps is attributable to a single entity in two types of circumstances:
- when that entity “directs or controls” others’ performance, or
- when the actors “form a joint enterprise.”
In Akamai V, CAFC had held that directing or controlling others’ performance includes circumstances in which an actor:
(1) “conditions participation in an activity or receipt of a benefit” upon others’ performance of one or more steps of a patented method, and
(2) “establishes the manner or timing of that performance.”
District court found taking folic acid in the manner recited by the asserted claims is a critical and necessary step to reduce potentially life threatening toxicities caused by the Pemetrexed amounts to receive the benefit of the patented method.
Regarding first of the two pronged test, the court found, based on the product labeling, that taking folic acid in the manner specified is a condition of the patient’s participation in the Pemetrexed treatment. Regarding the second prong, the court found that physicians would prescribe an exact dose of folic acid and direct that it be ingested daily. Hence court held all steps of the asserted claims would be attributable to physicians.
Court further observed that the mere existence of direct infringement by physicians, while necessary to find liability for induced infringement, is not sufficient for inducement but there has to be also specific intent and action to induce infringement. Court went on to find intent on the part of physician for the inducement and held that there was no error in district court’s decision. Some important observations of court have been mentioned below.
CAFC made two important observations as below:
- The intent for inducement must be with respect to the actions of the underlying direct infringer, here physicians.
- Second, it is not required to show evidence regarding the general prevalence of the induced activity. When the alleged inducement relies on a drug label’s instructions, the question is not just whether those instructions describe the infringing mode,..but whether the instructions teach an infringing use such that we are willing to infer from those instructions an affirmative intent to infringe the patent. Court further observed that the label must encourage, recommend, or promote infringement and it is irrelevant that some users may ignore the warnings in the proposed label.
Court went on to observe a label that instructed users to follow the instructions in an infringing manner was sufficient even though some users would not follow the instructions, but vague instructions that require one to look outside the label to understand the alleged implicit encouragement do not, without more, induce infringement.
On the issue of invalidity on the indefiniteness of the term “vitamin B12”, CAFC hold that a person of ordinary skill in the art would understand the scope of the claim term “vitamin B12” with reasonable certainty. Applying Nautilus (outcome of this decision) in this case did not lead CAFC to a different result from the district court’s conclusion on the question of indefiniteness.
Regarding issue of invalidity due to obviousness, CAFC was not convinced that the district court committed clear error in concluding that Defendants failed to carry their burden of proving that it would have been obvious to a person of ordinary skill to use vitamin B12 pretreatment to reduce Pemetrexed toxicities.
Thus CAFC affirmed district court decision.
About the Author : Ms. Rashmi Goswami, WOS-C at TIFAC, intern at Khurana and Khurana, Advocates and IP Attorneys and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org