Court reverses ruling on arthritis drug patent
The 2009 verdict, the largest patent-related damages award in US history, was reversed yesterday by the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington, according to the court’s website. The three-judge panel ruled the patent, issued to New York University and J&J’s
J&J, which sells the competing arthritis medicine Remicade, had persuaded a jury that Abbott infringed on the patent, which J&J said covered the human antibodies used in Humira.
The appeals court ruled that J&J’s patent application never described fully human antibodies and said at most the claims “constitute a wish list of properties’’ that such an antibody would have.
“The opinion confirms that you can’t claim what you didn’t invent,’’ said William Lee of WilmerHale in Boston, who represented Abbott in the case.
Rob Bazemore, president of the Centocor unit, said in a statement the company is considering whether to ask the panel to reconsider its decision or request that the case be heard by all active judges of the court.
Humira is Abbott’s biggest drug, with $6.55 billion in sales worldwide last year, or about 18 percent of the company’s total revenue. Remicade is J&J’s largest drug product, accounting for about 7.5 percent of the company’s business, or $4.61 billion in sales.
Humira blocks action of tumor necrosis factor, or TNF. When the body produces too much TNF, it can cause the immune system to attack healthy tissue and leads to inflammation.
J&J sued in 2007 for what it said was unauthorized use of the patent. Abbott argued that J&J’s patent does not cover the human antibodies that are used in Humira, and they are invalid because scientists could not make fully human antibodies against TNF in a laboratory in 1994, the date set by the trial court as the time of the invention.
The Federal Circuit yesterday ruled that J&J failed to show it described fully human antibodies in 1994, when it sought patent protection. Inventors must provide descriptions so others may emulate or build on the work.
“The evidence clearly showed that Abbott was first to invent a fully human anti-TNF antibody, Humira,’’ said Scott Stoffel, a spokesman for Abbott.