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Welcome to Shelston’s wrap-up of the most notable patent decisions in Australia and New Zealand delivered during 2019. It was a busy year for patent jurisprudence with some interesting themes emerging – in particular, it has been a banner year for decisions on the “manner of manufacture” requirement for patentable subject matter.
- An expanded Full Federal Court clarified the “manner of manufacture” test for computer-implemented methods to be patentable (Encompass), a topic that was also central to several other Federal Court (Tettman, Repipe, Watson) and Patent Office (Apple) decisions.
- There were also important “manner of manufacture” decisions in the life sciences space, with single judges finding both a diagnostic method involving a process of detecting genetic material (Sequenom) and use of genetic information to infer traits (Meat & Livestock Australia) to be patentable subject matter.
- The Full Court confirmed there is no doctrine of patent exhaustion in Australia, the critical distinction being between repairs permitted by implied or express licence terms brought home to the purchaser of a product, and the impermissible re-making of the product beyond the scope of any licence (Calidad (No. 1)).
- The Full Court confirmed that a permanent injunction framed in general form by reference to the claims of an infringed patent is generally appropriate and may be ordered in addition to a specific injunction describing products or conduct found to infringe (Calidad No. 2).
- The Full Court overturned an award of additional damages for flagrant patent infringement on the basis that the infringer had believed, on objectively reasonable grounds, that its conduct did not infringe the patent (Oxworks).
- The tide continued to turn against pharmaceutical patentees being granted interlocutory injunctions (Mylan, Sanofi-Aventis).
- Patentees learned some harsh lessons as the Full Court dismissed infringement claims based on the construction of the terms “contains” (construed exhaustively in Nichia) and “recognise” (construed broadly in Davies).
- There were several applications by patentees to amend patent claims and specifications after commencing infringement proceedings (Meat & Livestock Australia, Neurim, BlueScope), with mixed success.
- Consideration was given in the Patent Office to Australia’s “raised bar” requirements for support and sufficiency (Gary Cox, Universal Polymers).
- Both clinical trial patient consent forms (InterPharma) and academic conference posters (Regeneron) were considered prior art documents in life sciences cases.
- There were further decisions regarding families of patents that have been litigated for a decade or more (Globaltech, SNF).
- There were also decisions regarding the admissibility of “WayBackMachine” evidence (Dyno Nobel), summary dismissal of an infringement case (Pilkin), a successful application for preliminary discovery (MMD), a failed cross-claim for unjustified threats (Liberation), a failed attempt to withdraw admissions relating to infringement (Juno), a “strawman” opponent to a patent application having to pay security for costs in an appeal despite winning the opposition (Toolgen) and a party commencing infringement proceedings despite not being a proper exclusive licensee having to pay indemnity costs (Vald).
- Two recent decisions issued by the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand provide new hope that, in certain circumstances, it may be possible to obtain an extension of time to file a divisional patent application (Primapak, Magic Leap).
As 2020 gets underway, we hope this provides a useful and practical resource and, of course, please do not hesitate to take the opportunity to contact our authors, all subject-matter experts in their respective fields, for advice on the issues raised by these important decisions.
Authored by Duncan Longstaff and Onur Saygin