The Stage is Set . . . . Federal Circuit to Hear Oral Argument Regarding PTE EligibilitySeptember 3, 2009
By Kurt R. Karst –
On Tuesday, September 8, 2009 (just shy of the 25th anniversary of the September 24, 1984 enactment of the Drug Price Competition and Patent Term Restoration Act – i.e., the “Hatch-Waxman Act”), the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit is scheduled to hear oral argument in two cases – Ortho-McNeil Pharma v. Lupin Pharma, Case No. 2009-1362, and PhotoCure ASA v. Kappos, Case No. 2009-1393 – that, once decided, should solidify as to when a patent covering a drug product is eligible for a Patent Term Extension (“PTE”) under 35 U.S.C. § 156. We previously posted on these cases here, here, here, and here.
Both cases concern the proper interpretation of 35 U.S.C. § 156(a)(5)(A), which states that the term of a patent claiming a drug shall be extended from the original expiration date of the patent if, among other things, “the permission for the commercial marketing or use of the product . . . is the first permitted commercial marketing or use of the product under the provision of law under which such regulatory review period occurred” (emphasis added). In recent PTE determinations, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (“PTO”) has heavily relied on decisions by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Fisons v. Quigg, 8 U.S.P.Q.2d 1491 (D.D.C.1988), aff’d 876 F.2d 99 U.S.P.Q.2d 1869 (Fed.Cir.1989), and Pfizer Inc. v. Dr. Reddy’s Labs., 359 F.3d 1361 (Fed. Cir. 2004) (“Pfizer II”) to support the Office’s interpretation of the term “product” in 35 U.S.C. § 156(a)(5)(A) to mean “active moiety” (i.e., the molecule in a drug product responsible for pharmacological action, regardless of whether the active moiety is formulated as a salt, ester, or other non-covalent derivative) rather than “active ingredient” (i.e., the active ingredient physically found in the drug product, which would include any salt, ester, or other non-covalent derivative of the active ingredient physically found in the drug product). In contrast, the Federal Circuit’s 1990 decision in Glaxo Operations UK Ltd. v. Quigg, 894 F.2d 392, 13 USPQ2d 1628 (Fed. Cir. 1990) (“Glaxo II”), construed the term “product” in 35 U.S.C. § 156(a)(5)(A) to mean “active ingredient.”
The Lupin case is an appeal of the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey’s recent ruling that the PTE granted by the PTO with respect to U.S. Patent No. 5,053,407 (“the ‘407 patent”) covering Ortho McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceutical, Inc.’s (“Ortho’s”) LEVAQUIN (levofloxacin) is valid. Levofloxacin is an enantiomer in the previously approved Ortho racemate drug product FLOXIN (ofloxacin). Lupin Pharmaceutical, Inc. (“Lupin”) challenged the ‘407 patent PTE in the context of ANDA Paragraph IV Certification patent infringement litigation on the grounds that the PTE is invalid because FDA previously approved levofloxacin when the Agency approved ofloxacin. Although the PTO was not a party to the district court litigation, the Office submitted an amicus brief in support of Ortho in the Federal Circuit appeal, arguing that ‘407 patent PTE grant was valid and consistent with the Office’s active moiety interpretation of 35 U.S.C. § 156(a)(5)(A). Copies of the briefs submitted in the Lupin case are provided below:
- Brief of Defendant-Appellants Lupin Pharmaceuticals, Inc. and Lupin Ltd.
- Brief of Plaintiffs-Appellees Ortho-McNeil Pharmaceutical, Inc., OrthoMcNeil, Inc., and Daiichi Sankyo Co., Ltd.
- Reply Brief of Defendants-Appellants Lupin Pharmaceuticals, Inc. and Lupin Ltd.
- Brief for the United States as Amicus Curiae in Support of the Appellees
The PhotoCure case stems from the PTO’s denial of a PTE for U.S. Patent No. 6,034,267 (“the ‘267 patent”) covering the drug product METVIXIA (methyl aminoevulinate hydrochloride). Applying the active moiety interpretation of the law, the PTO determined in May 2008 that METVIXIA does not represent the first permitted commercial marketing or use of the product because of FDA’s previous approval of an NDA for Dusa Pharmaceuticals Inc.’s LEVULAN KERASTICK (aminolevulinic acid HCl) Topical Solution, which contains the active moiety aminolevulinic acid (“ALA”). Thus, according to the PTO, METVIXIA did not represent the first permitted commercial marketing or use of ALA and the ‘267 patent was ineligible for a PTE. PhotoCure filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia challenging the PTO’s decision.
Earlier this year, the court ruled in PhotoCure’s favor. In reaching its decision that the PTO’s decision to deny a PTE was “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with the law” under the Administrative Procedure Act, the court explained that it must determine whether it is required to follow the Federal Circuit’s ruling in Glaxo II or Pfizer II. The court stated that “[i]mportantly, Pfizer II postdated Glaxo II and was a panel decision that the Federal Circuit declined to hear en banc. ‘[The Federal Curcuit] has adopted the rule that prior decisions of a panel of the court are binding precedent on subsequent panels unless and until overturned in banc. Where there is a direct conflict, the precedential decision is the first’” (internal citation omitted). As a result, the court applied the “active ingredient” interpretation adopted in Glaxo II and determined that “the ‘267 patent covering Metvixia satisfies § 156(a)(5)(A), and that the USPTO’s decision to apply the active moiety interpretation and deny PhotoCute a [PTE] under this provision was contrary to the plain meaning of the statute and thus not in accordance with the law.” The PTO appealed the decision to the Federal Circuit.
The PTO argues in its Federal Circuit briefs that Pfizer II is controlling, and that even if Pfizer II is not controlling, the PTO persuasively interpreted active ingredient to mean active moiety and correctly denied a PTE for the ‘267 patent. Copies of the briefs submitted in the PhotoCure case are provided below:
- Brief for Defendant-Appellant
- Brief for Plaintiff-Appellee PhotoCure ASA
- Reply Brief for Defendant-Appellant
As we have previously noted, the Federal Circuit’s decisions in the Lupin and PhotoCure cases, if they affirm the “active ingredient” interpretation adopted in Glaxo II, could have significant implications on previous and pending PTO PTE decisions. We will update you as these cases move forward.