“In line with a 2016 report, about 66% of medical selections are based mostly on steerage offered by in vitro diagnostic checks. Disincentives to the event of latest diagnostic exams are subsequently not within the public curiosity.”
In every of the current Federal Circuit selections on medical diagnostics innovations, Athena Diagnostics v. Mayo Collaborative Providers, 2017-2508, (Fed. Cir. Feb. 6, 2019) (“Athena”) and Cleveland Clinic Discovered. v. True Well being Diagnostics LLC, 2018-1218 (Fed. Cir. April 1, 2019; non-precedential) (“Cleveland Clinic II”), the courtroom affirmed a district courtroom ruling that discovered a medical diagnostic or a associated patent invalid for being directed to ineligible material. Athena and Cleveland Clinic II comply with the arduous stance taken by the Federal Circuit towards medical diagnostics innovations, first in Ariosa Diagnostics, Inc. v. Sequenom, Inc., 788 F.3d 1371, 1376 (Fed. Cir. 2015) (“Ariosa”) and subsequent in Cleveland Clinic Discovered. v. True Well being Diagnostics LLC, 859 F.3d 1352, 1361 (Fed. Cir. 2017) (“Cleveland Clinic I”).
In Athena, the patent coated a way for diagnosing a illness in a subpopulation of affected people based mostly on the invention of a correlation between the illness and sure autoantibodies discovered solely in that subpopulation. In Cleveland Clinic I, the patent claims have been directed to diagnosing the danger of atherosclerotic heart problems (CVD) based mostly on the correlation between elevated ranges of a protein discovered within the blood and prevalence of atherosclerotic CVD. In Cleveland Clinic II, the claims have been directed to strategies of figuring out elevated ranges of the protein however didn’t embrace any recitation of the correlation.
Notably, regardless of confirming the invalidity of the patent, the panel majority in Athena affirmed that “offering patent safety to novel and non-obvious diagnostic strategies would promote the progress of science and helpful arts”—the constitutional function patents serve. Athena, Majority opinion at 15. Additionally, the bulk agreed with the dissent that “the general public curiosity is poorly served by including disincentive to the event of latest diagnostic strategies.” Id. Nonetheless, the bulk felt that its palms have been tied by Mayo Collaborative Providers v. Prometheus Laboratories, Inc., 566 U.S. 66 (2012) (“Mayo”). Id. (stating, “[b]ut, whether or not or not we as particular person judges may agree or not that these claims solely recite a pure regulation…the Supreme Courtroom has successfully informed us in Mayo that correlations between the presence of a organic materials and a illness are legal guidelines of nature, see 566 U.S. at 77, and “[p]urely ‘typical or apparent’ ‘[pre]-solution exercise’ is generally not enough to rework an unpatentable regulation of nature right into a patent-eligible software of such a regulation.” (quotation omitted).
In Mayo, the U.S. Supreme Courtroom held that a patent directed to a way was invalid as a pure regulation if the tactic, along with the pure regulation, concerned solely well-understood, routine, typical steps beforehand engaged in by scientists within the area. The courtroom formulated a two-step check for analyzing patent eligibility beneath which the first step requires figuring out whether or not a declare is directed to a judicial exception, (i.e., a regulation of nature, a pure phenomenon, or an summary concept). In that case, then step two requires figuring out whether or not any component or mixture of parts within the declare is adequate to make sure that the declare quantities to one thing considerably greater than the judicial exception.
The Mayo check, expanded in Alice Corp. v. CLS Financial institution Worldwide, 573 U.S. 208 (2014), for summary concepts, and now generally known as the Alice/Mayo check, results in the dissection of a declare to first extract the judicial exception. The rest is analyzed for an creative idea to find out whether or not the extra parts “rework the character of the declare” right into a patent-eligible software. A declare failing the second step is held patent-ineligible as being directed to the judicial exception. Many medical diagnostics patent claims detect correlations utilizing generally recognized methods and thus are more likely to endure the identical destiny because the claims in a lot of the patent instances mentioned right here. This drawback turned widely known within the wake of Ariosa the place the Federal Circuit, making use of the Alice/Mayo evaluation, struck down Sequenom’s necessary innovation for prenatal analysis of fetal abnormalities. The courtroom first decided that the declare was directed to a patent ineligible idea after which proceeded to the subsequent step, explaining, “[W]e subsequent contemplate the weather of every declare each individually and ‘as an ordered mixture’ to find out whether or not further parts ‘rework the character of the declare’ right into a patent-eligible software.” Ariosa at 1375 (emphasis added).
This compartmentalized strategy was criticized by the dissent in Athena, which cited 4 Supreme Courtroom precedents supporting the proposition that a declare have to be analyzed as an entire. These embrace Mercoid Corp. v. Minneapolis-Honeywell Regulator Co., 320 U.S. 680, 684 (1944), stating, “a patent on a mixture is a patent on the assembled or functioning entire, not on the separate elements;” and Aro Mfg. Co. v. Convertible Prime Alternative Co., 365 U.S. 336, 344 (1961), stating, “if something is settled within the patent regulation, it’s that the mixture patent covers solely the totality of the weather within the declare and that no factor, individually seen, is inside the grant.” Athena, Dissenting opinion at Four-5.
On this regard, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Workplace’s 2019 Revised Patent Topic Matter Eligibility Steerage does require contemplating the declare as an entire in step one, the “directed to” inquiry step, of the Alice/Mayo check. The steerage addresses eligibility of patent claims that recite an summary concept. In accordance with the steerage, a declare just isn’t “directed to” a judicial exception, and thus is patent eligible, if the declare as an entire integrates the recited judicial exception right into a sensible software of that exception. The steerage explains integration as follows: “[a] declare that integrates a judicial exception right into a sensible software will apply, depend on, or use the judicial exception in a fashion that imposes a significant restrict on the judicial exception, such that the declare is greater than a drafting effort designed to monopolize the judicial exception.” The steerage appears to require primarily that the declare impose a significant restrict on the judicial exception. Nevertheless, the steerage doesn’t have the drive of regulation, and there’s no certainty that the Federal Circuit will endorse the steerage.
Additional, it’s value noting that the courtroom has required greater than a significant restrict on the judicial exception to keep away from full eligibility evaluation. For instance, in Enfish, LLC v. Microsoft Corp., 822 F.3d 1327, (Fed. Cir. 2016) (“Enfish”), the courtroom, in figuring out that the claims at difficulty weren’t directed to an summary concept inside the which means of Alice, said that moderately, they have been “directed to a selected enchancment to the best way computer systems function…” Enfish at 1336. Additionally, in McRO, Inc. v. Bandai Namco Video games Am. Inc., 837 F.3d 1299, (Fed. Cir. 2016) (“McRO”), the courtroom said that when checked out as an entire, the declare at problem was “directed to a patentable, technological enchancment over the prevailing, guide Three-D animation methods.” McRO at 1316.
The requirement for an enchancment to the know-how concerned in finishing up the claimed technique is a steep hurdle for the eligibility of most medical analysis innovations, because the essence of such innovations is making use of a newly found correlation to ship a sensible profit—not enhancing the know-how used to offer the analysis. On this regard, medical diagnostic innovations are distinctive. This level was highlighted by the Athena dissent by means of reference to the amici curiae 5 Life Sciences Patent Practitioners’ temporary, which said, “[medical] diagnostic strategies . . . are so tightly sure to underlying pure legal guidelines and phenomen[a]they’re particularly vulnerable to undue enlargement of the eligibility requirements…” Athena Dissenting opinion at 13.
Since all patent eligibility determinations need to fulfill the necessities set forth in Mayo, the broad query is whether or not Mayo may be learn with prior Supreme Courtroom patent eligibility instances in a method that medical diagnostics claims could be discovered eligible. Earlier than exploring solutions to this query, nevertheless, a number of post-Mayo Federal Circuit selections associated to patent eligibility of medical diagnostics patents are outlined under.
Ariosa v. Sequanom
In Ariosa, the claims have been directed to a way for detecting paternally inherited cell-free fetal DNA (cffDNA) in maternal plasma or serum to find out fetal traits comparable to gender. The tactic was based mostly on the invention that cffDNA might be present in maternal plasma/serum. The tactic required amplifying the cffDNA current within the plasma/serum and detecting the paternally inherited cffDNA utilizing recognized laboratory methods. Prior artwork prenatal diagnoses strategies have been invasive and dangerous to the mom and to the being pregnant.
The panel majority in Ariosa discovered that the claimed technique began with maternal cffDNA and ended with paternally inherited cffDNA. It reasoned that because the existence of every was a pure phenomenon, the tactic started and ended with a pure phenomenon and subsequently was directed to naturally occurring matter. As a result of methods like polymerase chain response (PCR) to amplify and detect cffDNA have been well-understood, routine, and traditional, the one material new and helpful, the bulk noticed, was the invention of the presence of cffDNA in maternal plasma/serum.
Cleveland Clinic I
In Cleveland Clinic I, the patent at difficulty claimed strategies for characterizing the danger of heart problems in a person by figuring out the extent of the enzyme myeloperoxidase (MPO) in a bodily pattern taken from the person and evaluating that degree with the MPO ranges in individuals not having heart problems. MPO is launched when an artery is broken or infected. Detection of MPO could possibly be carried out with recognized strategies. In step one of many Alice/Mayo evaluation, the Federal Circuit decided that the claims have been directed to multistep strategies for observing a regulation of nature, specifically, that MPO correlates with heart problems. The Courtroom noticed that, as in Ariosa, the claimed technique began and ended with naturally occurring phenomena with no significant non-routine steps in between.
Speedy Litig. Mgmt. Ltd. v. CellzDirect, Inc.
In Speedy Litig. 827 F.3d 1042 (Fed. Cir. 2016), the asserted claims have been directed to a way of manufacturing a preparation of hepatocytes that might be frozen and thawed no less than two occasions. As a result of cryopreservation can injury cells, it was believed that hepatocytes might be frozen solely as soon as with out dropping viability. As such, upon thawing they needed to be both used or discarded, which was a big limitation. The inventors found that some fraction of hepatocytes was able to surviving a number of freeze-thaw cycles. Based mostly on this discovery, they developed an improved means of preserving hepatocytes, which they patented. The district courtroom discovered the claims ineligible as directed to a regulation of nature, the regulation being that hepatocytes are able to surviving a number of freeze-thaw cycles. The Federal Circuit reversed, figuring out that the claims have been directed to a brand new and helpful laboratory method for preserving hepatocytes. In contrast to Ariosa, the top end result was not merely an statement or detection of the power of hepatocytes to outlive a number of freeze-thaw cycles, however a brand new and helpful technique of preserving hepatocytes, the courtroom defined.
Athena v. Mayo
In Athena, the patent at concern claimed strategies of diagnosing neurological issues comparable to Myasthenia gravis (MG) by detecting autoantibodies that bind to an epitope of a membrane protein referred to as MuSK. Autoantibody detection could possibly be carried out utilizing methods recognized within the artwork. About 80% of sufferers with MG produce acetylcholine receptor autoantibodies, however the different 20% don’t, although they expertise the identical MG signs. The inventors found that most of the 20% of MG sufferers with out acetylcholine receptor autoantibodies as an alternative generate autoantibodies to a protein referred to as MuSK. No illness had beforehand been related to MuSK.
Mayo argued that the claims have been directed to a pure regulation—the correlation between naturally-occurring MuSK autoantibodies and MuSK-related neurological illnesses like MG. Athena argued the other and identified that the claims recited revolutionary, particular, and concrete steps that don’t preempt a pure regulation. The panel majority decided that as in Cleveland Clinic I and Ariosa, the claims have been directed to a pure regulation as a result of the claimed advance was solely within the discovery of a pure regulation, and that the extra recited steps solely utilized typical methods to detect that pure regulation.
The bulk acknowledged that the the first step “directed to” inquiry focuses on the declare as an entire however added that the courtroom had ceaselessly thought-about whether or not the claimed advance improved upon a technological course of or merely an ineligible idea, citing Ariosa, Speedy Litig., and McRO amongst others. The bulk additionally distinguished the claims in Athena from these in Vanda Pharm. Inc. v. West-Ward Pharm. Int’l Ltd., 887 F.3d 1117, 1133–36 (Fed. Cir. 2018) on the bottom that the latter claimed a brand new remedy based mostly a pure regulation, not the pure regulation.
Cleveland Clinic II
In Cleveland Clinic II, the claims have been directed to strategies of figuring out elevated ranges of MPO in blood. In contrast to Cleveland Clinic I, the claims recited neither diagnosing the danger for atherosclerotic CVD nor the correlation between elevated ranges of MPO and CVD danger. Cleveland Clinic argued partially that the claims weren’t directed to a pure regulation as a result of they didn’t recite or describe any ineligible idea. The argument was based mostly on the USPTO steerage revealed Might Four, 2016 (Instance 29) that if a declare doesn’t recite or describe any ineligible idea, it isn’t directed to pure regulation. The Federal Circuit rejected this argument, noting that the steerage doesn’t have the pressure of regulation.
Turning again to Supreme Courtroom precedents on patent eligibility, regardless of strongly disagreeing with the bulk, the Athena dissent didn’t view the Mayo determination as usually barring the standard medical diagnostics invention. For instance, it said, “[a]pplying the Mayo/Alice protocol of two-step declare evaluation, claims 7–9 of the ’820 patent are patent-eligible underneath Step 1, for this technique of diagnosing Myasthenia Gravis isn’t a regulation of nature, however a man-made chemical-biomedical process.” Athena Dissenting opinion at 11. Somewhat, in its view, the panel majority misapplied precedent and misinterpreted 35 U.S.C. 101. Id. at 14. Past underscoring that a declare have to be thought-about as an entire (see above), it pointed to statements in Mayo and Alice cautioning towards wielding the two-step material eligibility check too closely: “too broad an interpretation of this exclusionary precept might eviscerate patent regulation. For all innovations at some degree embody, use, mirror, relaxation upon, or apply legal guidelines of nature, pure phenomena, or summary concepts,” (Mayo, 566 U.S. at 71); and “[a]t the identical time, we tread rigorously in construing this exclusionary precept lest it swallow all of patent regulation.” (Alice, 573 U.S. at 217). Id. at 9.
A opposite place is that Mayo leaves no room for locating medical diagnostics claims patent eligible. As famous above, this seems to be the view of the Athena majority. Such was the view additionally of the concurrence in Ariosa, which indicated that the issue lay within the method through which the Mayo courtroom utilized the second a part of the patent eligibility check. The concurrence noticed that the Mayo courtroom, referring to Diamond v. Diehr 450 U.S. 175 (1981) (Diehr), defined that in Diehr the general course of was patent eligible due to the best way the extra steps of the method built-in the equation (the judicial exception) into the method as an entire, but it discounted the traditional actions recited within the declare in Mayo. Ariosa at 1380.
Whereas disregarding typical actions may need been warranted in Mayo as a result of there the traditional actions have been steps that docs have been already performing (administering the thiopurine drug, measuring metabolite ranges, and adjusting dosing based mostly on the metabolite ranges), the Supreme Courtroom didn’t restrict its ruling to these specific information and circumstances, the concurrence noticed. Id at 1381. In consequence, a standard exercise (e.g., PCR) that had by no means been carried out for detecting the pure correlation at challenge (e.g., detection of cffDNA in Ariosa) however had been been carried out in different contexts, might be disregarded with out testing if it built-in the pure correlation into the tactic. That is opposite to Diehr.
Solely Time Will Inform
Medical diagnostics innovations proceed to face robust challenges on the bottom of material ineligibility. These innovations are distinctive in that the sensible advantages they supply don’t essentially depend upon enhancements to the methods used for detecting the pure correlations on which the innovations are based mostly. In line with a 2016 report, about 66% of medical selections are based mostly on steerage offered by in vitro diagnostic exams. Ulrich-Peter Rohr, et al., (2016) The Worth of In Vitro Diagnostic Testing in Medical Follow: A Standing Report, 11 PLoS One 11(Three): e0149856. Disincentives to the event of latest diagnostic checks are subsequently not within the public curiosity. Many strongly consider that resolving the present eligibility deadlock would require congressional motion. In Might of 2018, two main IP teams, Mental Property House owners Affiliation (IPO) and American Mental Property Regulation Affiliation (AIPLA) collectively proposed a legislative answer to amend 35 U.S.C. § 101 to make clear the patent eligibility normal and restore the scope of eligibility restricted by the Supreme Courtroom’s current selections. At present, lawmakers in each the Home and the Senate are engaged in efforts to redefine patent eligibility to convey certainty to what’s patentable, particularly within the areas of medical diagnostics and pc software program. On this regard, they’ve been accumulating stakeholders’ responses to the central query of how slender or broad part 101 ought to be to ensure that it to serve a gatekeeping perform. Not everyone is in favor of a slender studying of this perform, nevertheless. A broad studying helps defeat patent infringement lawsuits based mostly on material ineligibility and is favored by sure sections of sure industries. Solely time will inform if there shall be a change to part 101 and the way far that change will go.