Gilead ./. AbbVie: Court ban partially lifted

Case No. S2014_008 ¦ Decision of 04 February 2015 ¦ “Begründung Massnahmebegehren unter Bezugnahme auf Klagebegründung im ordentlichen Verfahren; unbedingtes Replikrecht im Massnahmeverfahren; Anordnung einer Verfügungsbeschränkung im Patentregister (Registersperre)”

This is further to an earlier post in this matter.

Gilead's Harvoni
Gilead’s Harvoni

In brief, both the plaintiff Gilead Pharmasset LLC and the defendant AbbVie Inc. had filed patent applications on a combination of sofosbuvir and ledipasvir (marketed by Gilead under the tradename Harvoni), and Gilead had lodged an assignment action against AbbVie in main proceedings (O2014_013).  A block of the patent register had been ordered without hearing the defendant beforehand, to prevent that the enforcement might be jeopardized.

In the meantime, the defendant was belatedly heard and the FPC now finally decided on the requested interim measures (Art. 265(2) CPC). And: The interim measures were upheld to a large extent, but examination and grant proceedings may now continue. Still, it will be highly interesting to see how the case will be decided on the merits in co-pending main proceedings.

However, also the present decision has some interesting procedural implications:

i)  SUBSTANTIATION BY REFERENCE TO WRIT

The plaintiff had filed the assignment action in main proceedings on the very same day as the request for interim measures. In order to avoid unnecessary repetition in the substantiation of the request for interim measures, the respective parts of the writ were incorporated by reference. The defendant argued that this was inadmissible. And indeed, the FPC held that global references to other documents are regularly not sufficient. But in the present matter, it was. The underlying facts in both proceedings are the same and the plaintiff’s allegations are thus evident. Under these circumstances, it would be an excessive formalism to insist on a complete repetition in summary proceedings.

ii)  UNCONDITIONAL RIGHT TO REPLY IN SUMMARY PROCEEDINGS

The defendant had filed his reply to the request for interim measures on December 22, 2014. The FPC then informed the parties that an exchange of further written submissions is dispensed with. In addition, the plaintiff was informed that any remarks on the defendant’s reply would have to be submitted in due course, and the FPC further held that remarks filed by no later than January 19, 2015 would be considered timely filed. Apparently, the plaintiff then filed very extensive remarks, along with two folders of exhibits. The defendant refrained from making any further remarks on the merits, but essentially argued that the new allegations were to be ignored by the court.

The FPC held that the plaintiff’s submission of January 2015 is to be considered as a submission made under the condition of the unconditional right to reply. With reference to the decision 4A_815/2014 (r. 3.2) of the Supreme Court, the FPC clarified that this decision has not ruled out submissions under the unconditional right to reply in summary proceedings, but rather only relativised its scope. Anyhow, the plaintiff’s submission was only considered inasmuch as it was occasioned by the defendant’s reply (analogous to BGE 4A_487/2014, r. 1.2.4).

iii)  BELATED SUBSTANTIATION OF A NOT EASILY REPARABLE HARM

Interim measures are ordered when the plaintiff credibly shows that a) a right to which he is entitled has been violated or a violation is anticipated; and the violation threatens to cause not easily reparable harm to the plaintiff (Art. 261(1) CPC). The plaintiff had argued in the initial request that three potential actions of the defendant could cause an irreparable harm, i.e. (1) an assignment of the patent applications to a third party; (2) the granting of rights (licences or pledge); and (3) changes to the contents of the applications (Art. 51 and 64 PatR).

However, the plaintiff was silent on a not easily reparable harm that could come along with a continuation of the examination and grant procedure as such. The FPC took note that the plaintiff presented arguments in this respect for the first time only in the submission of January 19, 2015. But the FPC held that this was belated and did not consider those arguments any further.

In sum, the FPC thus partially lifted the ban on AbbVie’s patent applications, and the examination and grant proceedings of CH 707 029 and CH 707 030 may now continue. As to the remaining potential actions (1)-(3) outlined above, the defendant basically accepted the request for interim measures: The defendant confirmed to the court that he did not even think of any of these actions. Thus, the FPC upheld the interim measures to that extent.

iv)  AMOUNT IN DISPUTE

The court fee depends on the amount in dispute. Contrary to Art. 221(1) lit. c / Art. 219 CPC the plaintiff did not indicate the amount in dispute for the summary proceedings. In main proceedings, the plaintiff estimated the amount in dispute to “exceeding CHF 1m”. The defendant estimated the amount in dispute (for the main proceedings) to “exceeding CHF 10m”. All this did not help much to figure out the actual amount in dispute in summary proceedings. However, the defendant had requested a security of CHF 5m in case the ban with respect to the examination and grant proceedings would have been upheld. The FPC took this as a sufficient indication of the amount in dispute and thus fixed it to CHF 5m (BGE 92 II 62, r. 3). This results in a court fee of CHF 30’000,– (which is moderate in view of the value in dispute; see CostR-PatC), provisionally borne by the plaintiff (still subject to the outcome in main proceedings).

Reported by Martin WILMING

— BIBLIOGRAPHY —

Case No. S2014_008 ¦ Decision of 04 February 2015 ¦ “Begründung Massnahmebegehren unter Bezugnahme auf Klagebegründung im ordentlichen Verfahren; unbedingtes Replikrecht im Massnahmeverfahren; Anordnung einer Verfügungsbeschränkung im Patentregister (Registersperre)”

Gilead Pharmasset LLC ./. AbbVie Inc.

Subject(s):

  • Interim measures without hearing the defendant
  • Interim measures
  • Transfer of patent application

Composition of the Board of the FPC:

  • Dr. iur. Dieter BRÄNDLE (President)
  • Lic. iur. Susanne ANDERHALDEN (First Court Secretary)

Representative(s) of Plaintiff:

Representative(s) of Defendant:

— FULL TEXT OF THE DECISION —

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