Teva UK Ltd & Ors v Gilead Sciences Inc, Court of Appeal - Patents Court, January 13, 2017, [2017] EWHC 13 (Pat)

Resolution Date:January 13, 2017
Issuing Organization:Patents Court
Actores:Teva UK Ltd & Ors v Gilead Sciences Inc

Case Nos: HP-2016-000004/00023/000032/000034

Neutral Citation Number: [2017] EWHC 13 (Pat)




Rolls Building

Fetter Lane, London EC4A 1NL

Date: 13 January 2017

Before :


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Between :

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Daniel Alexander QC and Lindsay Lane (instructed by Pinsent Mason LLP) for Teva

Daniel Alexander QC and Kathryn Pickard (instructed by Taylor Wessing LLP) for Accord

Daniel Alexander QC and Joe Delaney (instructed by Taylor Wessing LLP) for Mylan

Daniel Alexander QC and Jaani Riordan (instructed by Mishcon de Reya LLP) for Lupin

Thomas Mitcheson QC and James Whyte (instructed by Herbert Smith Freehills LLP) for Gilead

Hearing dates: 15-16 December 2016

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  1. In these proceedings the Claimants challenge the validity of the Defendant's (``Gilead's'') supplementary protection certificate SPC/GB05/041 (``the SPC'') for a product described in the SPC as ``Composition containing both Tenofovir disoproxil, optionally in the form of a pharmaceutically acceptable salt, hydrate, tautomer or solvate, together with Emtricitabine''. The SPC covers a product which is marketed by Gilead under the trade mark Truvada. Truvada is an anti-retroviral medication used in the treatment of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). It is a combination product consisting of two active ingredients, namely (i) 245 mg tenofovir disoproxil (``TD'') in the form of 300 mg of the fumarate (``TDF'') and (ii) 200 mg emtricitabine (also known as FTC) in a single, fixed dose tablet. TD and emtricitabine are both inhibitors of a viral enzyme known as reverse transcriptase. Gilead contends that the product described in the SPC is protected by European Patent (UK) No. 0 915 894 (``the Patent''), but the Claimants dispute this. Accordingly, the Claimants contend that the SPC does not comply with Article 3(a) of European Parliament and Council Regulation 469/2009/EC of 6 May 2009 concerning the supplementary protection certificate for medicinal products (codified version) (``the SPC Regulation'').

  2. It should be noted at the outset that Gilead's application for the SPC was originally rejected by the Comptroller-General of Patents, but Gilead's appeal against that refusal was allowed by Kitchin J (as he then was) for the reasons he gave in a judgment dated 31 July 2008 ([2008] EWHC 1902 (Pat)). Since then, however, there have been a number of judgments of the Court of Justice of the European Union which are relevant to the issue raised by the Claimants. Furthermore, Kitchin J did not have the benefit of the Claimants' arguments or of the evidence adduced by the parties before me. Accordingly, I must consider the matter afresh. As explained below, the Claimants contend that it is clear from the case law of the CJEU that the SPC does not comply with Article 3(a) of the SPC Regulation, while Gilead contends that it is clear that it does comply, but in the alternative contends that, if this is not clear, the question of interpretation of Article 3(a) should be referred to the CJEU.

    The evidence

  3. The parties in this case adopted slightly odd procedures to adduce evidence of the technical background. Gilead served a witness statement of Professor Brian Gazzard CBE, who is Professor of HIV Medicine, Consultant Physician and Research Director for HIV and Genitourinary Medicine at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital. Prof Gazzard is, and has been for many years, a well-known and eminent expert in the field of HIV treatment. He stated in his witness statement that he had been asked to give evidence ``as an independent fact witness''. In reality, Prof Gazzard's evidence is, at least in part, expert evidence which Gilead did not obtain the permission of the Court to adduce. The fact that his statement was, commendably, quite brief and drafted so as to be uncontroversial does not alter this. Sensibly, however, the Claimants did not object to the admission of this evidence. They did, however, point out that some of it was of no relevance since it related to the position well after the priority date of the Patent.

  4. For their part, the Claimants served hearsay notices in respect of a number of scientific papers. This was another device for adducing what in substance amounted to expert evidence without obtaining the Court's permission, and an even less satisfactory one. The general rule in English law is that a scientific textbook or article is not in itself admissible evidence: see Phipson on Evidence (18th ed) at §32-20. The reason for this rule is that it cannot generally be assumed that the court has sufficient expertise to understand and assess such materials without the assistance of an expert. It is, of course, entirely proper both for expert witnesses to refer to such materials in their evidence, and for cross-examiners to test the evidence of such witnesses by reference to such materials, but that does not alter the fact that the primary evidence is that of the expert witnesses. Again, however, Gilead sensibly did not object to the admission of this evidence. It is again uncontroversial and I was able to understand it to the extent necessary.

    Technical background

  5. A wide range of therapeutic agents was known for the treatment of viral infections, including HIV, in July 1996. These included a class of anti-retroviral drugs called nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors or NRTIs. By July 1996, it was increasingly common to treat HIV using a combination of different NRTIs, and in particular zidovudine (also known as AZT) and didanosine (also known as ddI). Other combinations which were used to treat HIV included AZT and zalcitabine (also known as ddC) and AZT and lamivudine (also known as 3TC). Another approach which was used in some cases was to combine a NRTI with a protease inhibitor or a non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor or NNRTI, two other classes of anti-retroviral drugs.

  6. Emtricitabine appears to have been first described in an article by Raymond Schinazi et al, ``Selective inhibition of human immunodeficiency viruses by racemates and enantiomers of cis-5-fluoro-1-[2-(hydroxymethyl)-1,3-oxathiolan-5-yl]cytosine'', Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, 36(11), 2423-2431 (November 1992). This article reported, inter alia, data for emtricitabine from in vitro anti-HIV studies.

  7. There is no evidence that it was known in July 1996 that emtricitabine was an effective agent for the treatment of HIV in humans, still less that this was common general knowledge to the person skilled in the art to whom the Patent is addressed. The European Medicines Agency first approved emtricitabine in October 2003, over seven years later.

    The Patent

  8. The Patent was applied for on 25 July 1997 with a claimed priority date of 26 July 1996 and granted on 14 May 2003. It is entitled ``Nucleotide analogs''. The specification states at [0001] that the invention relates to ``intermediates for phosphonomethoxy nucleotide analogs, in particular intermediates suitable for use in the efficient oral delivery of such analogs.''

  9. In the ``Summary of the Invention'' at [0003]-[0006], the specification states that the invention provides compounds in accordance with two Markush formulae, formula (1a) and formula (1), and methods for preparing such compounds.

  10. In the ``Detailed Description of the Invention'', the specification first defines the substituents in the two Markush formulae and then gives exemplary embodiments of the claimed compounds at [0007]-[0036]. At [0037] the specification discusses the chemical stability of the claimed compounds. The specification goes on to describe synthetic methods for the preparation of the claimed compounds at [0038]-[0043].

  11. The specification then describes the utilities of the claimed compounds at [0044] and [0045]. In the first of these paragraphs it states:

    ``The compounds of this invention are useful in the treatment or prophylaxis of one or more viral infections in man or animals, including infections caused by DNA viruses, RNA viruses, herpesviruses (CMV, HSV 1, HSV 2, VZV, and the like), retroviruses, hepadnaviruses, (e.g. HBV), papillomavirus, hantavirus, adenoviruses and HIV. Other infections to be treated with the compounds herein include MSV, RSV, SIV, FIV, MuLV, and other retroviral infections of rodents and other animals....''

    It can be seen from this that the Patent is directed to the treatment of viral infections generally, not just HIV, and to viral infections in both man and animals.

  12. Next, the specification describes a wide range of potential pharmaceutical formulations of the claimed compounds at [0046]-[0065]. The description is very bland and general, rather than being specific to the particular compounds or the particular utilities of those compounds. Counsel for the Claimants aptly described this passage as ``boilerplate''. The range of potential formulations extends to (for example) formulations suitable for topical administration to the eye ([0056]) and veterinary compositions ([0063]).

  13. Importantly for present purposes, the specification states at [0047]:

    ``While it is possible for the active ingredients to be administered as pure compounds it is preferable to present them as pharmaceutical formulations. The formulations of the present invention comprise at least one active ingredient, as above defined, together with one or more acceptable carriers and optionally other therapeutic ingredients. The carrier(s) must be `acceptable' in the sense of being compatible with the other ingredients of the formulation and not deleterious to the patient.''

    This is the only reference in the specification to the inclusion of ``other therapeutic ingredients''. The phrase ``other therapeutic ingredients'' is not defined or explained in the Patent in...

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