Pregabalin 2 – the invalidity appeal

In addition to clarifying infringement of method claims, the Full Court in Warner-Lambert (Pregabalin) also dismissed Apotex’ appeal against the findings that the Patent was fairly based and not invalidated by a false suggestion.

As you will recall, Warner-Lambert’s patent claimed methods for treating pain using pregabalin. The methods included claims 16 – 30 which were Swiss claims.

Apotex argued that the claims were not fairly based and had been obtained by false suggestion.

The main basis for these attacks stemmed from the parties’ acceptance that the point of the patent was the use of pregabalin to treat humans. However, the examples in the patent related to tests conducted on rats. Apotex argued that it was not certain that a compound shown to be efficacious in rats would necessarily work for humans or, if it did, what a “therapeutically effective amount” for humans would be without a considerable amount of testing and experiment. Apotex argued that the “prolonged research, inquiry or experiment” involved fell well short of what was required for a sufficient description of the invention. (This was the pre-Raising the Bar Act version of s 40(2)(a)). Accordingly, as laid down in Kimberly-Clark:

The question is, will the disclosure enable the addressee of the specification to produce something within each claim without new inventions or additions or prolonged study of matters presenting initial difficulty?

The Full Court accepted that it would be a complicated and expensive business to produce from the information in the Specification a medicament for the treatment of humans. After all, we are talking about a drug. However, the Full Court agreed with the trial judge that the work involved was nonetheless “routine” and did not require invention. For example, at [126] the Full Court accepted:

The need to produce “new inventions or additions” or to carry out “prolonged study of matters presenting initial difficulty” may mean that a description is insufficient. The need for time, cost and detailed work will not; at least where, as here, the work involved is of a routine and conventional kind.

“Routine” in this context was not merely simple and easy. The skilled addressees were scientists with Ph Ds and considerable experience.

An important consideration in reaching this conclusion was the nature of the claimed invention. According to the Full Court, the invention lay in the broad recognition that pregabalin, otherwise a known drug, could be used in the treatment of pain. It was not concerned with any particular dosing regime.

It also appears that (see [39] of the Full Court’s reasons) Apotex’ evidence did not identify any particular problems that would be encountered if one were to embark on formulating the drug for the relevant purpose.

In reaching this conclusion, the Full Court was also highly critical of Apotex’ attempt to characterise the work involved as imposing an “undue burden”. This formulation was derived from EPO and English cases in which the statutory test was close to the Raising the Bar Act formulation:[3]

(a) disclose 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

So it was irrelevant to the test under the pre-Raising the Bar Act form of s 40(2)(a) and, in any event, was an unhelpful gloss on the terms of the statute.

Bearing in mind the history of the terminology adopted in the Raising the Bar Act version of s 40 and the similarity of the wording to the EPC / UK Act, it is to be hoped that the High Court’s warnings in Lockwood v Doric not to get entangled in English cases post–1977 will fall away when a case arises under the new form of the provision.

Dr Summerfield addresses the invalidity issues of the appeal here.

Warner-Lambert Company LLC v Apotex Pty Ltd (No 2) [2018] FCAFC 26 (Jagot, Yates and Burley JJ)

AIPPI Sydney 3 – sufficiency

My attempt to summarise Parma Session 1 ‘Sufficiently plausible’ has been posted on IPKat here.

Clare Cunliffe’s report on the session about IP and competition is here.

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.

Abstract principle, fine art or just unknowable

Mr Lisica applied for a patent, claim 1 of which reads:

An auscultative method that expounds upon the Natural Harmonics Series (NHS) and Mr Svetko Lisica’s Scientific Theory for Music’s decipherability and attunement, from the Invention’s Programmatic Specificity in a soniferous or visual realm for a new, useful, innovative and original Composition Engine and via its computations, providing the compositional harmonic materials that are put in the states of being manifested by the Invention’s unprecedented and original Musical Instrument and Sonic Biodynamical Brain Entrainment Bridge for Binaural Beats, into a stable unit of measure in exactitude for a tuning medium, herewith this Invention is the state or fact of existence, a practical Universal Intonation System that belongs with Music, The Absolute and The Beyond.

(The other claims are all dependent.)

Despite submissions to the Examiner, the Delegate at a hearing and an appeal to the Court, no-one (apart from Mr Lisica) really has any idea what the claimed invention is.

The Delegate rejected Mr Lisica’s application on the grounds that it was not a manner of manufacture and contravention of s 40(2) – the old form.[1]

Jessup J found only one objection was necessary: non-compliance with s 40(3) (in its old form):

The claims are, of course, critical to the exercise in which the court is now involved. It is here that the applicant encounters what is, for a court operating without the assistance of expert evidence, a fundamental difficulty. In my view, Claim 1, set out above, is not clear and succinct, as required by s 40(3) of the Patents Act. As a statement marking out the area of the public monopoly which the applicant seeks, the claim falls well short of the standard of clarity required. The ground of objection referred to in s 59(c) is substantiated in relation to the claim. I do not, therefore, consider that there is no lawful ground of objection of the kind referred to in s 49(1)(b). I would exercise the discretion arising under s 49(2) adversely to the applicant.

The Commissioner (or, rather, her officers) were a bit naughty. Mr Lisica had submitted 6 files in support of his application. The Examiner and the Delegate only opened and read 2 of them. Apparently, the other files were in SCM format, which the Patent Office couldn’t open.[2]

The naughty bit: no-one told Mr Lisica that the Patent Office didn’t read the files (because they couldn’t open them) until everyone got to Court for the trial. As Jessup J explained:

It may have required a modicum of ingenuity to open the SCM files – in a demonstration in court, the applicant himself did so. But the troubling aspect of the omission referred to above is not whether it was reasonable of the applicant to have expected the examiner and the delegate to open the files, but that the applicant was never informed of the difficulty which they were, apparently, experiencing, nor invited to remedy it. The examiner’s report was supplied to the applicant in the normal course, and it gave him no reason to suspect that four out of the six files which he had submitted had not been viewed or considered for such assistance as they may have provided in conveying the nature of the invention and how it was best performed. In that state of ignorance, the applicant made his submissions to the delegate, and he too dealt with the problems which the application involved without viewing all the files which constituted the application.

(His Honour did note that he was not suggesting any different result might have occurred if the correct process had observed.) Jessup J seems to be contemplating not allowing the Commissioner her costs:

In the orders which accompany these reasons, I shall lay out a timetable for the making of written submissions on costs. I shall, of course, consider any submission which the Commissioner makes in that regard, but I think I should say at this stage that one issue upon which I would expect to be addressed in that submission is whether the circumstances most recently discussed above in these reasons should be considered relevant to such entitlement to costs as the Commissioner might otherwise have as the successful party in this appeal.

Lisica v Commissioner of Patents [2014] FCA 433


  1. Relying amongst other things on Research Affiliates.  ?
  2. His Honour drily noted, even a file in .doc format does not comply with the Commissioner’s requirements.  ?

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).  ?

Scope of disclosure in an innovation patent

Patentology has a nice summary of the innovation patentee’s successful appeal in Seafood Innovations Pty Ltd v Richard Bass Pty Ltd [2011] FCAFC 83.

One point: it seems like the disclosure in the body of the specification supporting the broadest claim was at a level of generality similar to that upheld by the High Court in the first round of Lockwood. Wonder how that will hold up for future application under the (proposed) Raising the Bar legislation?

Secondly, the (now) infringer’s best line of defence (apart from invalidity) seems to have turned on trying to argue (now unsuccessfully) that incorporating additional integers in the accused gutting machine to those specified in the claim. Bennett J gave it short shrift.