Productivity Commission implementation part 2

IP Australia has released draft legislation for the proposed Intellectual Property Laws Amendment Bill (Productivity Commission Response Part 2 and Other Measures) Bill 2018.

Schedule 1 of the proposed bill includes measures to:

  • amend inventive step requirements for Australian patents (to bring them into line with the imagined approach of the EPO;
  • introduce an objects clause into the Patents Act 1990
  • phase out the abomination innovation patent system.

Well, 1 out of 3 is not so bad.

Schedules 2 – 4 propose the mooted amendments to the Crown use provisions (both patents and designs) and the compulsory licensing provisions.

There are also streamlining measures and “technical improvements” in schedules 5 to 7.

Download the draft bill, the draft EM and consultation questions from here.

Written submissions are due by 31 August 2018.

Government consultation papers on patent and trade marks

Government consultation papers on patent and trade marks

Government consultation papers on patent and trade marks

The Australian government has issued 5 consultation papers on how to implement some of the recommendations it has accepted from the Productivity Commission’s Final Report into Intellectual Property Arrangements:

Submissions are required by 17 November 2017 (with a view to introducing a bill as soon as possible).

I can’t say that introducing yet another inventive step test (there are 4 if you count common general knowledge alone – depending on which regime applies to the patent in question) makes much sense.

Most of the Productivity Commission’s reasoning was based on the common general knowledge alone test used in Alphapharm.1 It did find, however, that there had not been much change in the Commissioner’s rate of granting patents relative to the EPO since the Raising the Bar act was passed. However, so far as I could see, it doesn’t tell us how many applications the Commissioner had examined under the Raising the Bar regime and you would have to guess a large number were still under the 2001 regime.2

Essentially, the Raising the Bar regime allows any piece of prior art to be combined with common general knowledge to test obviousness. It also allows prior art information to be combined in the same way as one might expect an English court or an EPO board would.3 The Raising the Bar regime should in fact operate just like the UK/EPC regime and one would have thought we should give it a good chance to work!

  1. See e.g. the reliance on Angiotech Pharmaceuticals v Conor Medsystems Inc. [2007 EWCA 5 at [43]. ??
  2. The Merial case is the only judicial consideration I am aware of applying the regime introduced in 2001 but, if you know of others, let me know. ??
  3. See e.g. KCI Licensing v Smith & Nephew [2010 EWCA Civ 1260 at 6. ??

 

Government response to Productivity Commission IP report

The Government has published its response to the Productivity Commission’s Intellectual Property Arrangements – Final Report.

Further comment will have to await. In the meantime, the media release notes:

A key priority will be to align Australian inventive step law with international best practice to ensure that the necessary protections are available to deserving inventions. The Government has also accepted the Productivity Commission’s recommendation to phase out the Innovation Patent System.

and, in not accepting the proposal to adopt a general “fair use” defence to copyright:

It is important copyright reform is considered in a holistic context rather than focused on individual issues. We will continue to work closely with stakeholders over the next 12 months to develop effective options for copyright reform.

The Australia Copyright Council is very pleased.

There will also be a new IP Policy Group (within government) to, er, monitor IP policy!

According to the Government’s Media Release, the Government is still considering the merits of a number of other proposals and “will work on these further”.

Australian Government Response to the Productivity Commission Inquiry into Intellectual Property Arrangements (pdf)

Media release 25 August 2017

AstraZeneca goes down

The High Court has unanimously dismissed AstaZeneca’s appeal from the finding that its low dose patent for rosuvastatin was invalid as obvious. The main issue was whether the Courts below had impermissibly allowed one or other prior publication to be “added” to common general knowledge under the then narrow version of section 7(3). This was unanimously rejected.

AstraZeneca AB v Apotex Pty Ltd [2015] HCA 30.

WIPO patent studies

In connection with the 22nd session of WIPO’s Standing Committee on Patent Law, the International Bureau has published 2 studies on patent law issues:

(1) a study on inventive step(pdf); and

(2) a study on sufficiency of disclosure(pdf).

Each document seeks to present in summary form factual information about how various Member States deal with these issues under their respective patent laws, identifying where possible common themes and approaches and differences.

Rosuvastatin goes to the High Court

The High Court has allowed special leave to appeal from the Full Federal Court’s decision in AstraZeneca v Apotex (“Rosuvastatin”).

From the special leave transcript, it looks like the main issue will be the operation of s 7(3) and the basis on which a reference ascertained for the purposes of s 7(3) may be combined with common general knowledge under s 7(2).

In Rosuvastatin, a Full Bench of 5 justices held that the “starting point” identified in the patent could be used as the “starting point” for testing whether the solution in the patent was obvious only when shown to be part of the prior art base. The Full Court nonetheless held the patent was invalid as a s 7(3) reference, the Watanabe paper, was added to the common general knowledge.

From the special leave transcript, it appears that all parties were in agreement that the person skilled in the art would undertake a literature search. The resulting search would have thrown up a number of documents. AstraZeneca argues that the Full Court erred in allowing the Watanabe paper to be used as a s 7(3) reference. Its main argument appears to be that the search would have thrown up at least 2 papers, Watanabe and Aoki. AstraZeneca argues that, before the Watanabe paper can be combined with common general knowledge under s 7(2), it needs to be shown that the person skilled in the art would have chosen the Watanabe paper over Aoki. According to AstraZeneca, however, the evidence did not establish that. Again according to Astrazeneca, there was evidence that the skilled person could choose either paper and, if Aoki was chosen, would fail:

If you had gone down the NK-104 path you fail – a relative fail. If you had gone down the other one, you win. The evidence of Professor O’Brien was – others can reasonably make one choice or another. Dr Reece did not even venture on the issue as to which one he would go down.

A second point that AstraZeneca argues is that to choose Watanabe the skilled person would have needed to refer first to Aoki. That is, it argues that it was necessary to engage in impermissible masoning.

If AstraZeneca succeeds, there will also be a dispute about entitlement issues and the operation of new s 22A and 138(4).

No doubt more will become clearer when the appeal documents are posted on the High Court’s website.

Astrazeneca AB & Anor v Apotex Pty Ltd; Astrazeneca AB & Anor v Watson Pharma Pty Ltd; Astrazeneca AB & Anor v Ascent Pharma Pty Ltd [2015] HCATrans 58

 

Five Judges speak with one voice on Australian Patent Law Construction and Fair Basis*

The Rosuvastatin case is that rare beast – a decision of a 5 member Full Bench of the Federal Court. It canvases many issues and, no doubt, we shall be picking over it for years to come. Susan Gatford, at the Victorian Bar, has kindly provided a guest post on the section 40 issues. Take it way Sue:

The judgment in AstraZeneca AB v Apotex Pty Ltd [2014] FCAFC 99 is an authoritative statement by a Full Court of the Federal Court of current patent law in Australia on novelty, obviousness, fair basis and indirect infringement. Further, neither the parties nor the Full Court at [37] demurred from the primary judge’s summary of the relevant authorities as to what constitutes common general knowledge and the attributes of the hypothetical skilled addressee. Likewise, neither the parties nor the Full Court at [90] disagreed with the primary judge’s exposition of the principles governing the construction of the claims and body of a specification of a patent.

The Full Court was principally constituted with five justices so as to address issues in regard to obviousness[1]. But the decisions at first instance and on appeal, taken together, also provide a “go to” exposition of most of the legal issues that commonly arise in Australian patent cases.

The Court’s views on the different validity grounds and on indirect infringement each warrant separate commentary and analysis. This article considers one of the construction issues, the decision as to fair basis and the interplay between construction and fair basis.

Background

Statins are a group of drugs that reduce the levels of cholesterol in the blood. Rosuvastatin (marketed in Australia as CRESTOR) is a very successful statin. No patent was ever filed in Australia for the rosuvastatin chemical compound. But AstraZeneca (Az) owns a number of secondary Australian patents relating to rosuvastatin. Two such patents are the subject of the appeal decision. One (the low dose patent) is for the administration of a particular dose or dosage range of rosuvastatin for the treatment of excess cholesterol in the blood stream. The other (the cation patent) is for a pharmaceutical composition (combination) of rosuvastatin mixed with certain inorganic salts.

The Full Federal Court’s decision affirms, although with some differences of reasoning and grounds, Apotex’s victory last year before Justice Jagot, in which it obtained orders revoking both patents.

The outcome of the appeal

The low dose patent was held:

  • to have named the wrong inventor (with a discussion of the current and former entitlement provisions of the Patents Act);
  • to be obvious (with a discussion of the starting point at which obviousness is to be considered and the impact of section 7 of the Patents Act); and
  • not to have been infringed (with a discussion of section 117 of the Patents Act)
  • 

However, reversing the decision of the primary judge, the Full Court held that the low dose patent was novel despite the existence of prior publications disclosing both rosuvastatin and a dosage range that covered the dosage range the subject of the claims.

The cation patent was held:

  • to have impermissibly claimed too early a priority date;
  • to have been anticipated (not novel);
  • to be obvious; and
  • not to be fairly based on the specification (despite the presence of claim 1 as a consistory clause within the body of the specification).

The five judges agreed with each other on all issues. Justices Besanko, Foster, Nicholas and Yates wrote a joint judgment which dealt with all issues except obviousness. Justice Jessup wrote a separate judgment on obviousness with which the rest of the Court agreed.

Patent construction and section 40 issues in relation to the cation patent.

The cation patent was for rosuvastatin mixed with certain multivalent cation inorganic salts. The salts were not therapeutic – their role was said to be simply to stabilize the rosuvastatin and prevent it from degrading. The patent specification described rosuvastatin and various salts being mixed together into a tablet which was then coated.
There was a disagreement between the parties as to the meaning of the words “pharmaceutical composition” in claim 1 of the cation patent. Apotex submitted that in the context of the cation patent “pharmaceutical composition” referred only to the rosuvastatin-salt mixture, and did not include the tablet coating. This was because the proposed Apotex product did not have a rosuvastatin-salt mixture – in its tablet the salt was placed into the coating, not mixed with the rosuvastatin.

Az, in order to maintain its infringement case, argued that the words “pharmaceutical composition” in claim 1 meant the whole tablet i.e. the means by which rosuvastatin is administered or delivered to the patient, whatever form that takes. The primary judge agreed with Az, as did the Full Court.

But, Apotex said, if this is what claim 1 means then it is not fairly based on the specification, as there is no real and reasonably clear disclosure in the specification of a pharmaceutical composition in which the relevant inorganic salt is contained solely within the coating of the pharmaceutical composition and not mixed with the active ingredient, being rosuvastatin. They noted that every disclosure in the cation patent of the use of a relevant salt, including in each of the examples, involved the salt being mixed or blended with rosuvastatin. They also noted that the only theory advanced in the specification to explain how the multivalent cation salt improved the stability of rosuvastatin was that it stabilised its chemical structure, which the experts’ evidence confirmed required “intimate mixing”.

Az did not dispute this evidence but submitted that the fact that claim 1 was repeated in the body of the specification as a consistory clause was itself sufficient for fair basis, relying on statements in Lockwood Security Products Pty Limited v Doric Products Pty Limited (2004) 217 CLR 274 (Doric No 1) at [38] and [91] to [93]. The primary judge had agreed with that submission.

The Full Court, however, disagreed. It said at [421]

“The question that must be addressed is whether there is a real and reasonably clear disclosure in the specification of an invention in which there might be no mixture of the active ingredient and inorganic salt. In our opinion, the specification, when read as a whole, does not make any such disclosure even in the most general sense.”

In other words, the claim was for a composition which contained three things – rosuvastatin, salt and a coating. The claim did not require the salt and the rosuvastatin to be mixed, so the salt could either be with the rosuvastatin or in the coating. In the invention disclosed in the specification, though, the salt and the rosuvastatin were always mixed. The possibility of the salt not being mixed with the rosuvastatin was not contemplated and not disclosed.

Section 40(3) of the Patents Act as applied to this patent (i.e. as it stood before the 2013 amendments to the Patents Act) requires that “the claim or claims must be … fairly based on the matter disclosed in the specification”.

The Court’s finding of lack of fair basis refocuses attention on the construction of claim 1 contended for by Apotex. But the Court was not prepared, in light of the authorities, to read claim 1 as requiring the salt and the rosuvastatin to be mixed, as it considered that to do so would be to draw an impermissible gloss from the specification.

The Court was, however, prepared to use section 40 to strike down what it evidently regarded as a claim that was too widely drawn. Whether the judgment will result in an increase in the number of successful challenges based on section 40 grounds remains to be seen.

AstraZeneca AB v Apotex Pty Ltd [2014] FCAFC 99

 

Thanks, Sue.


  1. As to which see Mark Summerfeild’s recent blog post  ?

Did the Earth move for you too?

Most of the substantive Raising the Bar amendments came into force today.

Amongst other things, schedule 1 of the Raising the Bar Act introduced a raft of changes designed to raise the threshold of patentability – i.e., make it harder to get a patent.

These include:

  • introducing the really diligent searcher of prior art for obviousness via changes to s 7(3)[1] so that it will be permissible to combine any piece of prior art with common general knowledge (if the skilled addressee could reasonably be expected to combine the two), not just those elements of the prior art that the skilled addressee could be reasonably expected to have found;
  • a new concept of utility based on the US approach; and
  • doing away with the ’old’[2] fair basis requirement in s 40 as interpreted by the High Court in that Lockwood ruling.

Instead of fair basing, a patent will be required by s 40(2) to disclose:

(a) the invention in a manner which is clear enough and complete enough for the invention to be performed by a person skilled in the relevant art; and

(aa) the best method known to the applicant of performing the invention; and …

and s 40(3) will read:[3]

“The claim or claims must be clear and succinct and [fairly based on the matter described] supported by matter disclosed in the specification.”

Provisional specifications will have to meet the requirements set out above in s 40(2)(a) also.

This is intended to introduce into Australian law the requirements under the UK’s 1977 Act: s 72(1)(c).

The Court of Appeal[4] provides an interesting example of how these new rules should work in it Merial ruling. Merial had (at least) 2 patents relating to its Frontline brand of flea-treatment products. One of these, the 881 patent survived the attack on sufficiency of description, but the other, the 564 patent did not.

Kitchin LJ identified the crucial difference between the 2 patents at [85] – [86]:

…. This was a matter to which the judge expressly referred at [77]:

”77. In contrast to the examples in 881, the examples of 564 simply specify different concentrations of the active ingredients. The examples do not contain any formulation details beyond saying that there should be present a crystallisation inhibitor, an organic solvent and an organic co-solvent.”

This then was the critical difference between the disclosures of the two patents. Omnipharm failed to establish that the practical guidance given by the examples of the 881 patent was not sufficient to enable the skilled team to work across the breadth of the claims. But the 564 patent claimed a combination of actives and did so without any worked examples at all. It provided no real practical assistance over and above the common general knowledge.

Kitchin LJ accepted Merial’s argument that the UK Act did not impose an obligation to include examples of the way the claimed invention worked. However, his Lordship considered that was not why the trial judge, Floyd J, upheld the attack. Rather, the description was insufficient because it did not give sufficient guidance about which ingredients to choose and in what proportions. So, Kitchin LJ explained at [89]:

I reject these submissions. I think it is clear from [151] – [152] that the judge did not find that the absence of any detailed examples was, in itself, fatal to the sufficiency of the 564 patent. What rendered it insufficient, in his view, was the absence of proper exemplification of a formulation of the invention in the context of a specification which 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. 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.

One illustration of the problem with the 564 patent was set out earlier at [83]:

The disclosure in relation to solvents and co-solvents is something the judge also had well in mind, as is clear from [66]-[67]. Here he referred to the dielectric constant ranges which the solvent and co-solvent must meet, and that the co-solvent must have a boiling point below 100°C. He also referred to the lists of suitable solvents and co-solvents. This information would not, however, be of any practical use to the formulator who, as Dr Walters explained, would have to fall back on his general knowledge of solvents and techniques for enhancing spreading and skin penetration in order to decide on the appropriate solvent system to use.

Neither the Court of Appeal nor Floyd J at first instance set out at length the legal principles underlying insufficiency for these purposes. However, Floyd J had earlier set out his understanding of ‘classical insufficiency’, Biogen insufficiency and ‘insufficiency through ambiguity’ at [361] – [454] in Zipher.

Omnipharm Ltd v Merial [2013] EWCA Civ 2 via IPKat

ps.: those who attended David Brennan’s talk last year will find his ‘Monash paper’ in 38(1) Monash University Law Review 78.


  1. Austlii doesn’t seem to have caught up with all the minutiae yet.  ?
  2. The ‘old’ rules will continue to apply for all standard patents granted before 15 April and any pending applications for which a request for examination had been made before 15 April. (This the pre–15 April 2013 version of s 40 will break when the new rules come in.)  ?
  3. where the words in between [ and ] are deleted by the new Act  ?
  4. For England and Wales (of course).  ?

Amazon’s 1-click in Australia

On Telstra’s opposition to the grant of Amazon’s 1-click patent in Australia, the Commissioner’s delegate has found that:

  • claims 1, 2 and 4 to 61 were invalid;
  • but:

It seems to me that the use to which server generated client identifiers [i.e., cookies] are put in the present invention is both an elegant and inventive way of achieving one action ordering functionality. Therefore I consider that any of the claims having this integer fulfil the requirement of subparagraph 18(1)(b)(ii) of involving an inventive step. These are claims 3 and 62 to 141.

Patentology has a detailed consideration here.

DCC takes a slightly different tack.

Telstra Corporation Limited v Amazon.com, Inc. [2011] APO 28

The specification in AU 762715 (pdf)

Upholding a patent opposition on appeal

Adrian Crooks, at IPnow, provides his summary of Besanko J’s ruling in Aspirating IP v Vision Systems [2010] FCA 1061.