|The AmeriKat demonstrates what a cat would do|
if they had an itch from a flea, not that she has any
experience of course....
The Skilled Addressee and Common General Knowledge
|The AmeriKat hopes never to have |
an appointment with Dr. Flea...
Each party called two experts, but of particular interest to the AmeriKat was Merial's expert called Professor Michael Dryden from Kansas State University who has become widely known as "Dr. Flea". Purrrrrr…..
The judge also outlined the common general knowledge that the skilled team would be taken to possess including knowledge about fleas and their habits, the method and effectiveness of parasiticides and the variety of excipients available to them to assist in the delivery of any parasiticide formula. A special Katpat goes to Mr. Justice Floyd for providing us with the term "transdermal distribution" - also something forming the common general knowledge of the skilled team. Transdermal distribution refers to the way in which the formulations are transmitted into the bloodstream through the layers of skin. The skilled team would also know of the existence of some parasiticides which, following application on a single point on the animal's skin or along a line down the back of the animal, would lead to its distribution over the whole of the animal's body without the formulation ever entering the animal's bloodstream (dubbed "dermal non-systemic distribution"). Importantly, the team would not, however, understand why or how this happened.
|'564 Patent - meet your nemesis|
wherein in the composition:
[fipronil] is present in a proportion of from 5 to 15 % (percentage as a weight per unit volume W/V); and
(B) is present in a proportion of from 1 to 20 % (percentage as a weight per unit volume W/V).The Insufficiency Appeal
Merial argued that the judge made four main errors of principle to his approach on sufficiency. These were as follows:
Lord Justice Kitchin, giving the judgment of the court, was unable to accept this argument. The trial judge did refer to and had in his mind the various components that Merial claimed he failed to consider. Further, the mere broad recital of various components, including those that were already commonly known, without specific concentrations (the ranges were to broad to be useful) or details as to why particular ingredients were preferred over others was not sufficient. Further, the test results did not contain any teaching other than details that there should be a crystallization inhibitor, an organic solvent and an organic co-solvent in the formulation. In short, the factors referred to above did not teach the skilled team how to formulate the product comprising of fipronil and an insect growth regulator.
|Lord Justice Kitchin|
Lord Justice Kitchin rejected these submissions. The Court of Appeal held that Floyd J did not find that the lack of examples per se was fatal to the sufficiency of the '564 patent, more that the absence of a proper exemplification of a formulation of the invention in circumstances where the specification was "generally inadequate to guide the skilled person to success and provided no real practical assistance beyond the teaching of the prior art and the common general knowledge" was fatal to sufficiency. Further, Kitchin LJ stated:
"The specification contains no more than a very broad indication of the components of the formulation and, as the judge found, it is not a sufficient description to enable the skilled person to arrive at formulations across the breadth of the claims without undue effort."As regards to the second point, the teaching on page 16 was held to be limited to the fact that a representative solvent, co-solvent and anti-nucleating agent should be chosen.
(3) The judge’s conclusion was inconsistent with the whole of the evidence: Merial argued that there was no evidence upon which the judge could have concluded that the '564 patent was insufficient. There was no evidence, for example, that anything falling within the scope of the claims did not work. The judge in assuming that there was such evidence effectively reversed the burden of proof.
Lord Justice Kitchin did accept that the burden of establishing that the patent was insufficient rested upon the shoulders of Omnipharm, but did not accept that the judge had no evidence to conclude that the '564 patent was insufficient (see below).
Kitchin LJ again disagreed. After turning to the evidence of each of the experts, the he stated:
"So, in summary, the '564 patent provided the skilled team with a theory of dermal distribution and lists of solvents and excipients with which to set about the task of formulating the claimed combination of actives. But they would have had no understanding of that theory or which solvents and excipients should be employed to put it into practice, and no examples to assist them. As Professor Hadgraft himself said, it would be necessary to find a single set of conditions that provide adequate solubility, penetration, redistribution and stability for both actives at the same time. On the evidence before the judge, this was not a routine task and the '564 patent provides little by way of practical assistance. I am therefore satisfied that the judge had a proper evidential basis upon which to find the patent insufficient."The Costs Appeal
|The only time you should be happy |
to see an arguement for "squeezing"
in a patent case...
After recanting the rule on costs in patent actions, Mr Justice Floyd agreed that it was Omnipharm who was the overall winner. The judge in recognizing that the issues of obviousness and sufficiency were so "plainly interrelated" (i.e. there was a genuine "squeeze" arguement) Merial should be afforded a discount on Omnipharm's costs based on their success on obviousness. As such, the judge awarded Omnipharm 40 % of their costs.
At first instance, Merial contended that it was successful in relation to the '881 patent which survived the attack and which gave sufficient protection in respect of fipronil on its own or in combination with insect growth regulators (i.e. it covers the Frontline products). In other words, the '881 patent was the "jewel in Merial's crown". For this reason, Merial argued that it had won. On appeal, however, Merial argued that given that both parties were successful the judge should have concluded there was no overall winner and further and there was not a genuine squeeze argument .
After explaining that the appellate court had wide discretion as regards to costs and should only interfere with the lower court's exercise if it had "exceeded the generous ambit within which reasonable disagreement is possible" (Tanfern v Cameron-MacDonald  1 WLR 1311), the Court of Appeal held that judge was entitled to hold that Omnipharm was the overall winner, that Merial should pay 40% of Omnipharm's costs (i.e. receiving a 60% discount of Omnipharm's costs) and that there was a genuine squeeze argument.
All in all a successful day for Omnipharm and further indication from the Court of Appeal following the decision in Biogen that it will be reluctant to interfere with first instance decisions on sufficiency as they are, as stated by Merial in this case, "a kind of jury question which should be treated with appropriate respect by an appellate court". The same applies for costs orders. Unfortunately for Merial however, it seems that the points of principle at issue in this appeal was just one itch that could not be scratched by the Court of Appeal.