In Apotex, Inc. v. UCB, Inc., Appeal No. 2013-1674 (Fed. Cir. August 15, 2014) the court affirmed the district court’s ruling that one actor, Dr. Sherman, the chairman of Apotex had committed inequitable conduct by engaging in what the court found was a perfect storm of misrepresentations during the prosecution of U.S. Pat. No. 6,767,566 that claimed a method to make the magnesium (Mg) salt of Moexipril. The Fed. Cir. found that Dr. Sherman, the named inventor on the application withheld prior art, mischaracterized the cited art in arguments and via a Rule 132 Declaration, and included examples in the application that had not been performed. In fact, this was characterized as an attempt to patent a competitor’s drug. The competitor, UCB, had listed in the Orange Book, as the hydrochloride salt – although the court found that Dr. Sherman was aware that the process disclosed in the listed patent, U.S Patent No. 4,743,450, would yield the Mg salt of Moexipril, which imparted substantial stability. The Fed. Cir. agreed with Apotex that Dr. Sherman had no duty to disclose his own suspicions or beliefs regarding the prior art (that he suspected that the ‘450 process would in fact yield the stable Mg salt) but rested its holding on its opinion that Dr. Sherman “affirmatively and knowingly misrepresented material facts regarding the prior art.” Slip op. at 15.
Archive for the ‘Inequitable Conduct/Rule 56’ Category
On Friday, in American Calcar v. Amer. Honda Motor Co., App. No. 2013-1061 (Fed. Cir., September 26, 2014) a divided Fed. Cir. panel affirmed the district court’s ruling, following remand, that three patents on a multimedia system for vehicle information and control were invalid due to inequitable conduct (IC) by Calcar’s founder, Mr. Obradovich. The patents were all part of one family and the “priority patent” is U.S. Pat. No. 6,009,355. The primary evidence of inequitable conduct was the failure by Obradovich to disclose the owner’s manual of an Acura model that Calcar used as the basis of its specification. (A copy of the decision can be found at the end of this post.)
The Fed. Cir. had reversed the court’s earlier finding of inequitable conduct for a number of reasons, including judicial error in relying on jury findings of IC rather than ruling from the bench on equitable grounds, applying the “reasonable examiner” standard instead of the “but for” Therasense standard to resolve materiality, and use of a “sliding scale” to find intent based on a strong showing of materiality.
In October, I spoke at AIPLA with James Carmichael, who used to head up the “Fraud Squad” at the PTO. He noted that there had only been three Fed. Cir. decisions upholding findings of inequitable conduct (IC) since Therasense, two of which involved attorney misconduct. Now there is a fourth. The Fed. Cir. panel of Judges Dyk, Bryson and Reyna vacated and remanded a district court’s finding of no IC, but they wrote at a level of factual detail which virtually instructed the district court to change its mind. (Ohio Willow Wood Co. v. Alps South, LLC, Appeal no. 2012-1642, 2013-1024 (Fed. Cir. November 15, 2013) a copy is available at the end of this post).
On October 15, 2013, after reviewing the Government’s Amicus Brief (a copy is available at the end of this post), the Supreme Court denied the petition for cert. filed by Sony Computer Entertainment, one of the defendants in 1st Media, LLC v. Electronic Arts Inc., App. No. 2010-1345 (Fed. Cir. Sept. 13, 2012). Sony had alleged inequitable conduct due to the inventor’s and the patent attorney’s failure to disclose relevant references during prosecution of a chain of applications relating to multi-media entertainment systems. Pre-Therasense, the district court had tried the IC charges prior to the case-in-chief, and found IC without deciding if there was “but-for” materiality. The Federal Circuit reversed due to the failure of the district court to prove the element of specific intent to deceive the PTO. The Fed. Cir. decision contains this memorable quote: “Moreover it is not enough to argue carelessness, lack of attention, poor docketing or cross-referencing, or anything else that might be considered negligent or even grossly negligent.” Slip op. at 12-13. [Ed.’s note: These factors are starting to sound like the elements of a defense against a charge of IC.]