The use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning is growing at a significant pace and  spreading across many industry sectors, including healthcare. With the rapid development of AI technology which has the potential to revolutionise many aspects of our lives, including in providing and receiving healthcare services, the concept of “creations of the mind” is no longer limited to creations by a human being. These technological developments mean that the legal framework governing intellectual property (IP) rights such as patents and copyright, which protect “creations of the mind”, may need to be adjusted to address the changes and impacts brought about by the use of AI.

In line with the UK government’s ambition for the UK to be a leader in AI and to better understand the implications AI might have for IP policy, as well as the impact IP might have for AI in the short to medium term, the UK IPO conducted a public consultation at the end of 2020. The aim of the consultation was to seek responses on a range of questions relating to AI and IP rights. The UK IPO received 92 responses from a wide range of stakeholders, including IP rights holders, producers of AI technology and academia. The government’s response to the call for views on AI and IP was published in March 2021, under which reforms to patent and copyright law and policy were discussed.

In this blog, we summarise the UK government’s conclusions from the consultation before considering the potential impact to digital health applications and companies.

Continue Reading AI and IP: Implications for digital health from possible reforms to UK IP law

As the end of the transition period draws near and new laws and regulations are set to come into effect at 11.00pm UK time on Implementation Period Completion Day (31 December 2020)[1], it is important to appreciate the impact of the changes to businesses navigate through a post-Brexit era. Once the UK is no longer part of the European single market, what will it mean for parallel trade and exhaustion of intellectual property (IP) rights when goods are exported out of the UK into the EU and vice versa.
Continue Reading End of Brexit transition period: Exhaustion of Intellectual Property Rights and Parallel Trade in the UK and EU

Earlier this month, we commented on the European Commission proposal for a Regulation accelerating existing procedures for clinical trials where medicinal products containing or consisting of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are tested for the development of vaccines and therapies to treat COVID-19. The European Commission had proposed that, during the pandemic and by derogation to the GMO regulatory framework, the requirement of a prior environmental risk assessment or consent by the national competent authorities should not apply.
Continue Reading Update: Regulation for COVID-19 clinical trials conducted with medicinal products containing or consisting of GMOs has now been adopted

As part of the strategy to fight COVID-19, the European Commission has proposed a Regulation to facilitate the conduct of clinical trials using medicinal products containing or consisting of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs).

The European Commission recognises that the applicable regulatory framework in relation to GMOs is unable to adequately address the challenges created by the pandemic. While some vaccines in development contain attenuated viruses or live vectors, which may fall within the definition of a GMO, there is uncertainty on the interactions between the GMO regulatory framework and the legislation on clinical trials and medicinal products. This is further aggravated by the absence of a common approach by the EU Member States.
Continue Reading The European Commission proposes a Regulation for COVID-19 clinical trials conducted with medicinal products containing or consisting of GMOs

The spread of SARS-CoV-2 has created an urgent need to scale up the production and supply of essential medical equipment, including so-called Rapidly Manufactured Ventilator Systems (RMVSs), to treat COVID-19 patients. To help meet this challenge, the UK government announced on 3 April 2020 that it will indemnify designers and manufacturers of RMVSs for claims relating to infringement of third-party intellectual property (IP) rights and for product liability claims resulting from defective equipment.

Formal notification of the two indemnities was given by the Minister for the Cabinet Office, Michael Gove, to the Public Accounts Committee on 3 April 2020.[1] In the notice, Minister Grove noted that he could not give the normal fourteen sitting days’ notice because “commercial negotiations have only just concluded and contract signature did not allow further delay”. Details of the terms of the referenced agreement have not, however, been provided, as they were said to be commercially sensitive and would continue to be until negotiations had been finalised. It is therefore not yet clear who are the parties to the agreement, whether any cap will apply to the indemnities, whether the government will offer the same terms across the board, or whether it will negotiate them in individual supply agreements.

Continue Reading UK Government Offers IP Indemnity to Designers and Manufacturers of Ventilators for COVID-19 Patients

The Neurim CJEU decision of July 2012 has arguably caused an equal amount of excitement and controversy.  On the one hand, it seemed to open the door to supplementary protection certificates (SPCs) for second or further medical uses.  On the other, it seemed to go against a number of previous decisions.  On a strict literal interpretation of Article 3(d)[1] of the SPC Regulation[2], it should not be possible to obtain an SPC for new applications of old active ingredients that had already been the subject of a marketing authorisation.  In Neurim, based on a teleological interpretation to the SPC Regulation, the CJEU held that such an SPC could be validly granted.

A recent Opinion from Advocate General M. Giovanni Pitruzzella in the Santen SPC preliminary reference[3] urges the CJEU to expressly reject the Neurim decision, considering that the mere limitation of its application or marginalisation would not be a satisfactory option.

The facts in Santen

On 3 June 2015, Santen filed an SPC application relying on European Patent No. 057959306 as the basic patent in force (the “basic patent”) and on an EMA marketing authorisation granted on 19 March 2015 for the drug Ikervis (an eye drop emulsion containing the active ingredient ciclosporin used to treat severe keratisis).  The French National Institute of Industrial Property (“INPI”) rejected the application on the ground that a marketing authorisation had been previously issued for the same active ingredient for a medication called Sandimmun (an oral solution with several therapeutic indications including the eye disease uveitis, an inflammation of some or all of the uvea (the middle part of the eye)).

INPI held that the conditions in Neurim had not been satisfied for two reasons:

  • the basic patent was not limited to the severe keratisis indication – the claims included product only claims and claims to numerous other eye diseases; and
  • Santen had not demonstrated that the marketing authorisation constituted a ‘new therapeutic indication’ within the meaning of Neurim (for example, where the mode of action of the active ingredient differs or where the medical field differs).

Santen appealed the decision to the Paris Court of Appeal and it, in turn, decided to stay proceedings referring two preliminary questions to the CJEU.  The first question has asked the CJEU to consider how the concept of “different application” of an old active substance as understood in Neurim should be interpreted and the question provides a range of possible options from strict to broad interpretations.  The second question asks whether, in the context of determining whether the “[SPC application is] within the limits of the protection conferred by the basic patent” as understood in Neurim, the scope of the basic patent should be the same as the marking authorisation relied upon (i.e. it should be limited to the new medical use corresponding to the therapeutic indication of that marketing authorisation).

Less than six months after the preliminary reference was made by the Paris Court of Appeal, the CJEU had the opportunity to consider the scope and relevance of the Neurim decision in the Abraxis SPC case[4].  In that case the CJEU did not openly criticise the Neurim decision and, instead, limited its ramifications by referring to it as an “exception to the narrow interpretation of Article 3(d)” which “does not, in any event, refer to cases of new formulations of the product at issue”.

Continue Reading Santen SPC case: Advocate General Pitruzzella urges CJEU to reject Neurim