A Supreme Court ruling yesterday shooting down a local biotech firm’s hopes of launching a generic version of a multiple sclerosis drug before September has ramifications far beyond the pharmaceutical industry, say patent lawyers.
In fact, two patent attorneys from the Boston office of McCarter and English, Erik Paul Belt and Lee Carl Bromberg, both say yesterday’s decision on Teva vs. Sandoz – a case which has long tied up Cambridge-based Momenta Pharmaceuticals – means that the likelihood of an appeals court overturning a lower court ruling in a patent case just got a lot smaller. The resulting change in the legal landscape will mostly benefit patent-holders in the fields of technology and biotech, they say, lowering litigation costs overall.
“I think this really applies across the board,” said Belt, president-elect of the Boston Patent Law Association and a frequent author of amicus briefs for Supreme Court patent cases. “We have a lot of innovative companies in the Cambridge area that should be encouraged by this ruling.”
The Supreme Court’s ruling essentially takes away the appeals court’s ability to look at a case ‘de novo’ where the argument is over claim construction, or how to interpret a patent, as opposed to a dispute over the basic facts of a case. Such claim construction cases make up the vast majority of patent cases, said Belt and Bromberg.
That benefits patent holders because “at the district court level, the patentee has arguably a better shot at persuading the judge or jury of its point of view as to claim construction,” said Bromberg. Those district court rulings now have a greater chance of being upheld.
The ruling will likely cause both sides to focus more heavily on the district court trial, since getting that ruling overturned will be much harder from now on, he said. However, the resulting decrease in uncertainty over patent rulings should lower litigation costs as a whole for patent holders, since appeals will now be less likely.
“If anything, it will have an impact of the unpredictability of the process,” said Bromberg.