Archive:July 2017

A dispute between renowned tire producers – Ruling of the EU Court of Justice in the case of the trademark “XKING”
Say My Name: Beyoncé files trademarks for her newborn twins’ names
The protective capacity of 3D trademarks
Protecting Plant Innovations in the U.S., Australia and New Zealand
Federal Circuit Instructs the PTAB on Written Description in University Interference Proceeding
New Developments in Patent Eligibility of Diagnostic Methods
New Zealand joins the Global Patent Prosecution Highway
Sandoz v. Amgen – Biosimilars at the U.S. Supreme Court

A dispute between renowned tire producers – Ruling of the EU Court of Justice in the case of the trademark “XKING”

In a ruling of 26 July 2017 in case C-84/16 P, the Court of Justice upheld a ruling by the EU General Court invalidating a decision of the EUIPO Fourth Board of Appeal dismissing an opposition to the registration of the word-figurative trademark “XKING”.

That ruling benefits the company Compagnie générale des établissments Michelin (“Michelin”) – the entity that submitted the opposition to the registration in a proceeding before the EUIPO and is against the company Continental Reifen Deutschland GmbH (“Continental”), a market competitor of Michelin and the entity that applied for the registration of the contested mark.

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Say My Name: Beyoncé files trademarks for her newborn twins’ names

Long gone are the days where the first registration of your child’s name was on their birth certificate.  On 26 June 2017, U.S. Trade Mark Application Numbers 87506186 and 87506188 were filed for the names of Beyoncé Knowles-Carter and Shawn ‘Jay-Z’ Carter’s newborn twins ‘Rumi Carter’ and ‘Sir Carter’ by Beyoncé’s holding company, BGK Trademark Holdings.

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Protecting Plant Innovations in the U.S., Australia and New Zealand

The development of new plant varieties can be a costly and time-consuming process. To incentivise breeding endeavours, governments around the world have developed legal mechanisms which effectively provide breeders with a period of market exclusivity in which to commercialise their new variety. The mechanisms vary from country to country, and this article briefly reviews those available in the United States, Australia and New Zealand.

To read the full alert, click here.

By: Michael Christie and Margaux Nair

Federal Circuit Instructs the PTAB on Written Description in University Interference Proceeding

On June 27, 2017, the U.S. Federal Circuit vacated and remanded the Patent Trial and Appeal Board’s (Board) decisions in three interference proceedings between the Board of Trustees of Leland Stanford Junior University (Stanford) and the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) (Case No. 2015-2011).

Competing inventors at Stanford and CUHK developed methods for diagnosing aneuploidies—conditions characterized by an abnormal number of chromosomes (e.g., Down’s Syndrome and Turner’s Syndrome)—using maternal blood samples.  Maternal blood contains very small amounts of fetal DNA, and maternal blood sampling is far less invasive than previous methods of sampling fetal DNA.  Competing inventors developed techniques for detecting the fetal DNA in maternal blood.

A Stanford application was filed in 2007 with claims to analyzing certain “target sequences” of fetal DNA. A CUHK application, published in 2009, described a “random sequencing” method. This method uses a massively parallel sequencing (MPS) technique that does not require use of “target sequences.” After the CUHK application published, Stanford cancelled its original claims and replaced them with claims to sampling “randomly selected” DNA fragments using MPS. The 2007 Stanford application had disclosed that “the Illumina [DNA] sequencing platform” could be used to perform MPS.

Both Stanford and CUHK requested interferences before the Board to determine who invented the random sequencing method. CUHK claimed that, in 2011, Stanford saw CUHK’s claims to random MPS, and changed its application to claim that technique. CUHK moved to have Stanford’s claims held unpatentable for lack of written description support for random MPS.  The Board found that Stanford’s specification disclosed “targeted” rather than “random” MPS, and would not have indicated to one of ordinary skill in the art that the inventor was in possession of the claimed random MPS method.  It held Stanford’s claims unpatentable for lack of written description.

The Federal Circuit, inter alia, vacated the Board’s decision, stating that the Board erred in analyzing written description, and remanded the case.  The Circuit first found the Board erred by relying on CUHK’s expert testimony and several publications discussing a DNA sequencing platform that differed from the Illumina platform.  The Circuit further stated that the Board erred because “the Board’s task was to determine whether the [Stanford specification’s] written description discloses random MPS,” “not whether the description does not preclude targeted MPS.”  Finally, the Circuit stated that the Board failed to compare specific sentences and phrases referencing the sequencing process of the Stanford specification to the Stanford claims, e.g., the specification phrase “using the attachment of randomly fragmented genomic DNA.”

On remand, the Circuit instructed the Board to examine whether a person of ordinary skill in the art would have understood that the Stanford specification disclosed random MPS sequencing, as opposed to whether the specification did not preclude targeted MPS sequencing. Specifically, it instructed the Board to determine whether a person of ordinary skill would have known, as of the Stanford priority date, that the reference to Illumina products meant random MPS sequencing as recited in the claims, by examining pre-filing date factual record evidence.

By: Peter Giunta and Jenna Bruce

New Developments in Patent Eligibility of Diagnostic Methods

The U.S. Courts have repeatedly invalidated patents under 35 U.S.C. § 101 as lacking patentable subject matter in areas such as business methods and computer-based inventions. However, decisions addressing inventions in the life sciences are substantially less frequent.  In Cleveland Clinic Foundation v. True Health Diagnostics LLC (Fed. Cir. 2017), the Federal Circuit provided some additional guidance for patent eligibility of life sciences inventions.

Three of the patents at issue were directed to methods of detecting myeloperoxidase (MPO) (diagnostic patents), and the fourth patent was directed to methods of treating patients with heart disease based on the MPO detection methods of the other patents. The district court granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim because the diagnostic patents lacked patentable subject matter, and the Federal Circuit affirmed that decision.

According to the Federal Circuit, the diagnostic patents were directed to a law of nature: the correlation between MPO level and heart disease. Interestingly, the opinion notes that the correlation was known in the art prior to filing the patents, however, there was no way to directly detect the MPO or correlate the levels to a risk of heart disease. The Court found that the claims did not teach a new test or laboratory technique, nor did they alter the MPO levels. Rather, the levels existed in nature without human action. Thus, the Court concluded that the claims did “not result in an inventive concept that transforms the natural phenomena of MPO being associated with cardiovascular risk into a patentable invention.”

The Court left open the question of whether the method of treatment patent contained patent-eligible subject matter because the Court held that the pleadings for that patent were deficient (this patent was only alleged to be infringed through inducement or contributorily infringed).

Unlike other decisions on patentable subject matter in the life sciences area, the holding did not turn on whether the claims broadly preempted application of a law of nature. The Patent Owner argued that the claims should be patent eligible because they were narrow and did not preempt all uses of the alleged law of nature, but the Court stated that the preemption argument was fully addressed and made moot by its determination that the claims only disclosed patent-ineligible subject matter.

In view of this decision, care should be taken when drafting claims directed to diagnostic methods to be sure to clearly claim more than the diagnostic correlation.

By: Margaux Nair and Aaron Morrow

New Zealand joins the Global Patent Prosecution Highway

On 6 July 2017, New Zealand joined the Global Patent Prosecution Highway (GPPH) pilot program, providing applicants for New Zealand patents with a means of expediting prosecution of their application.

The GPPH is an arrangement between the intellectual property offices of several jurisdictions including Australia, the United States, Japan, Canada and Korea.  Under the GPPH, an applicant who receives a ruling that at least one claim has been allowed by a participating patent office may request that another participating patent office expedite examination of their application.

To be eligible for examination under the GPPH, the following requirements must be met:

  • the patent application to be examined under the GPPH must have the same earliest priority or filing date as the associated application which has already been examined by the participating patent office
  • the associated application must include one claim which has been deemed allowable by the participating patent office, and
  • the claims to be examined under the GPPH must sufficiently correspond with the allowed claims.

With regard to the third requirement above, applicants have the option of amending their claims so that they sufficiently correspond with those that have been allowed by another participating patent office. However, before making such amendments, applicants should consider the possibility of obtaining broader claims in certain jurisdictions. Patent laws vary between jurisdictions and a claim that was allowed in, say, the U.S., might be narrower that what could be obtained in New Zealand.

Prior to New Zealand’s entry into the GPPH, the options available to applicants seeking expedited examination were limited and burdensome. The GPPH now provides patent applicants with a simple way of accelerating prosecution of their patent application in several jurisdictions, potentially reducing the costs and time required to obtain a granted patent.  However, allowance of a claim in one jurisdiction does not necessarily mean that a corresponding claim will be allowed in another jurisdiction.

By: Michael Christie

Sandoz v. Amgen – Biosimilars at the U.S. Supreme Court

The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously decided Sandoz Inc., v. Amgen Inc., on Monday June 12, 2017, construing the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act (BPCIA).  The Court held:  (1) that the patent dance is not enforceable by injunction under Federal law, and  (2) that a biosimilar applicant’s 180-day “notice of commercial marketing” can be provided before FDA approval.  (See Sandoz Inc. v. Amgen Inc., Nos. 15-1039 and 15-1195, slip op. and our IP Alert Sandoz v. Amgen—Biosimilars at the Supreme Court—Oral Argument.)

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