In In re Arnold Klein, Appeal 2010-1411 decided June 6, 2011, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) overturned and remanded the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences’ (BPAI) decision that the considered claims were obvious over cited prior art references since the CAFC found that the BPAI failed to offer substantial evidence to support its use of the cited prior art references as analogous art. read more…
In the recent Centocor v. Abbot case, the Federal Circuit reversed the district court’s denial of judgment as a matter of law (JMOL) on invalidity, noninfringement and damages, and held the claims at issue invalid for failure to meet the written description requirement under 35 U.S.C. § 112, first paragraph.
This case involves antibodies to the known protein human Tumor Necrosis Factor α (TNF-α). Because TNF-α can contribute to various autoimmune conditions, including arthritis, pharmaceutical companies have been interested in developing antibodies that can bind to and neutralize TNF-α for use as a drug.
Centocor’s strategy for developing a therapeutically useful antibody to human TNF-α involved identifying a mouse antibody that bound to human TNF-α with high affinity and neutralized the activity of the TNF-α. To reduce the undesirable immune response in humans, less critical portions of the antibody were exchanged with human sequences, creating a chimeric antibody having a mouse variable region and a human constant region. In contrast, Abbot engineered a fully human antibody by screening a phage display library for a human variable region that binds to human TNF-α with high affinity and useful neutralizing activity, and combined this variable region with known human constant regions.
After the grant of Abbot’s patent and regulatory approval of the fully human anti-TNF-α antibody (Humira®), Centocor obtained a patent (U.S. Patent No. 7,070,775) directed to fully human antibodies as one of a series of continuations of Centocor’s original patent application directed to chimeric antibodies. Asserted claim 2 of the ‘775 patent, and claim 1 from which it depends, recite:
1. An isolated recombinant anti-TNF-α anti-body or antigen-binding fragment thereof, said antibody or antigen-binding fragment comprising a human constant region, wherein said antibody or antigen binding fragment (i) competitively inhibits binding of A2 (ATCC Accession No. PTA-7045) to human TNF-α, and (ii) binds to a neutralizing epitope of human TNF-α in vivo with an affinity of at least 1×108 liter/mole, measured as an association constant (Ka), as determined by Scatchard analysis.
2. The antibody or antigen-binding fragment of claim1, wherein the antibody or antigen binding fragment comprises a human constant region and a human variable region.
The pivotal issue concerned whether the ’775 patent provides adequate written description support for the claimed human variable region. In determining the inadequacy of Centocor’s written description, the Federal Circuit noted that the ‘775 specification only includes a mouse variable region and does not disclose a single human variable region. The court further stated that Centocor’s mouse variable region was “very different” from the sequence of a human variable region like the one in Abbot’s fully human antibody, and that the specification does not “disclose any relationship between the human TNF-α protein, the known mouse variable region that satisfies the critical claim limitations, and potential human variable regions that will satisfy the claim limitations.” Therefore, the mouse variable region did not serve as a “stepping stone” to identifying a human variable region within the scope of the claims. Centocor’s claims reciting human variable regions were categorized as constituting merely a “plan” or a “wish list” of properties that a fully-human, therapeutic TNF-α antibody should have.
In reaching a decision, the court distinguished this case from Noelle v. Lederman, 35 F.3d 1343 (Fed. Cir. 2004), and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office written description guidelines.
While our precedent suggests that written description for certain antibody claims can be satisfied by disclosing a well-characterized antigen, that reasoning applies to disclosure of newly characterized antigens where creation of the claimed antibodies is routine. Here, both the human TNF-α protein and antibodies to that protein were known in the literature. The claimed “invention” is a class of antibodies containing a human variable region that have particularly desirable therapeutic properties: high affinity, neutralizing activity, and A2 specificity. Claiming antibodies with specific properties, e.g., an antibody that binds to human TNF-α with A2 specificity, can result in a claim that does not meet written description even if the human TNF-α protein is disclosed because antibodies with those properties have not been adequately described . . . Centocor simply failed to support its contention that generating fully-human antibodies with the claimed properties would be straightforward for a person of ordinary skill in the art given the state of human antibody technology in 1994. Unlike the antibody example cited in the PTO guidelines, therefore, simple possession of the known TNF-α protein did not place Centocor in possession of the claimed antibodies.
Thus, although disclosure of a known protein does not necessarily provide written description support for claims to any antibodies to that protein, the court affirmed the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s established practice of allowing broad claims to antibodies specific for novel, well characterized proteins.
Prepared by Lisa E. Stahl, Ph.D.
In Ex Parte Akio Ochiai, Masakikosuge, and Takao Daicho, Appeal 2010-001367 decided February 14, 2011, the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences (BPAI) affirmed an Examiner’s obviousness rejection of the claims of the application because the Appellants failed to show specific evidence that an ordinary artisan would not have attempted to use individual compounds described in the prior art in the manner claimed in the application with a reasonable expectation of success.
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office recently released a notice entitled “Supplementary Guidelines for Determining Compliance with 35 U.S.C. 112 and for Treatment of Related Issues in Patent Applications.” The guidelines have immediate effect, but the Office will consider written comments received from the public by April 11, 2011. read more…
Prometheus Laboratories, Inc. v. Mayo Collaborative Services (Fed. Cir. 2010) In this case, on remand to the Federal Circuit from the U.S. Supreme Court for further consideration in light of the Supreme Court’s holding in Bilski (130 S. Ct. 3218 (2010)), the Federal Circuit reaffirmed its previous holding that Prometheus’ asserted medical diagnostics claims are drawn to patent eligible subject matter under 35 U.S.C. § 101. read more…
In Ex Parte Judy Hattendorf and Steve Carlson, Appeal 2010-010918 decided December 24, 2010, the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences (BPAI) reversed an Examiner’s obviousness rejection of claims of the application because the Examiner failed to show sufficient objective evidence to support his finding of prima facie obviousness.
Under long-standing precedent, an examiner’s conclusion that a claimed subject matter is prima facie obvious and therefore unpatentable must be supported by clear objective evidence that is, a teaching in the prior art that evidences that one having ordinary skill in the art would have been motivated to combine the relevant teachings of the references relied on by the examiner to arrive at the claimed invention and/or reasonably would have expected success in arriving at the claimed invention by combining the relevant teachings apparent from the references or other sources. read more…
In Bilski (130 S. Ct. 3218 (2010)), the Supreme Court criticized the Federal Circuit’s “machine or transformation” test for patent eligibility under § 101. In doing so, the Supreme Court emphasized that the § 101 patent eligibility inquiry is only a threshold test, and that only three exceptions to the Patent Act’s broad patent-eligibility principles have been articulated: “laws of nature”, “physical phenomena”, and “abstract ideas”. However, Bilski provided minimal guidance for determining abstractness. Research Corp v. Microsoft Corp is the Federal Circuit’s first interpretation of the Supreme Court’s Bilski decision in a case related to the question of abstractness in computer-implemented process claims.
In Research Corp, the Federal Circuit reversed the District Court’s holding that claims directed to certain digital imaging halftoning processes (processes which allow computers to present many shades and color tones with a limited number of pixel colors) were invalid under 35 U.S.C. § 101. read more…
In a non-precedential decision dated December 3, 2010 in U.S. patent application no. 10/286,314, the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences (BPAI, or “the Board”) reversed the findings of the examiner on the basis that the examiner’s interpretation of claim language was not supported by the evidence of record.
The only independent claim in the application, claim 41, recites in part “a substrate defining a channel” in a device for performing microfluidic processing of a sample.
In the Final Office action dated June 27, 2008, the examiner rejected claim 41 as being anticipated (lacking novelty) under 35 U.S.C. 102(e) in view of U.S. publication no. 2002/0187074 (O’Conner et al.). Specifically, on page 5 of the Office action, the examiner notes that the O’Conner publication discloses “a substrate (Figs. 7E-7F part 229) defining a channel (7E-7F part 227).
The applicants filed a response after the final rejection on August 26, 2008, in which they argued that “Layer 229 does not correspond to the substrate of claim 41 because this layer is disclosed to have no recesses or cavities and thus does not define a channel” as is required by claim 41. read more…
In A123 Systems, Inc. v. Hydro-Quebec, Appeal 2010-1059 decided November 10, 2010; an accused infringer brought a declaratory action against a licensee but did not join the owner of the patents in the suit.
Under long-standing precedent, an exclusive licensee with less than all substantial rights in a patent lacks standing to sue for infringement without joining the patent owner. Conversely, when filing a declaratory action, the accused infringer likewise must join the licensee as well as the patent owner when all substantial rights have not been transferred. Although the application of this precedent is straightforward, questions arise when the exclusive licensee holds itself out as possessing all substantial rights in a patent without a legal basis to do so. read more…
In re Ceccarelli (Fed. Cir. 2010)
Read/download the decision here
Prepared by Kevin D. Williams
In a November 19, 2010 decision (In re Ceccarelli), the Federal Circuit reversed a decision by the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences affirming an Examiner’s rejection of claims 1, 2, 5-14 and 17 in U.S. Application No. 10/843,833 as being unpatentable because of an on-sale bar.
The court found that the Board’s finding that the sale was not for experimental use lacked substantial evidence and therefore reversed the Board’s decision affirming the Examiner’s rejection.