The “Patent Dance” for Now: Rehearing Denied in Amgen v. Sandoz

Jeff Simon, MJLST Staffer

On July 21, 2015, the Federal Circuit’s decision in Amgen v. Sandoz established that a biosimilar applicant does not have to follow the patent dispute resolution procedures set forth by the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act. The BPCIA’s “patent dance,” located at 42 U.S.C. § 262(l)(2)(a), sets forth procedures requiring biosimilar applicants to disclose the biosimilar application and information describing the methods and procedures of its production to the sponsor of the reference biologic drug. The Federal Circuit’s fractured decision denied the compulsory nature of the “patent dance,” while still holding that biosimilar applicants are required to provide the biologic drug sponsor 180 days advanced notice of the first commercial marketing of its biosimilar product in accordance § 262(l)(2)(a).

Considering that the decision of the court was split by favoring the biosimilar applicants regarding the issue of the “patent dance” while favoring the biologic sponsor when it came to market disclosure, the decision was far from a satisfying result for either party as neither party came out as the clear victor. As such, both Amgen and Sandoz filed petitions for an en banc rehearing on August 20, 2015. Amgen’s petition for review once again contended that the language of § 262(I)(2)(a) as stated by congress, specifically the use of the word “shall,” indicates that the “patent dance’s” procedures are mandatory. Sandoz contended among other things that the 180-day provision necessarily increases the exclusivity period from 12 years to 12 and a half years and further that the court incorrectly asserted that notice was mandatory and enforceable. Both parties submitted amicus curiae briefs in agreement that, as a matter of first impression, it was appropriate for an en banc rehearing.

However, despite a fractured panel deciding a matter of first impression, Federal Circuit denied a rehearing in decision on October 16, 2015. The decision came as surprise to many of those associated with the biologic drug industry, especially considering the novelty and discord upon the issues. Considering the fact that both parties sought a rehearing, the court may have decided that the issue was undeserving of the court’s continued interest and resources. Both parties may file petitions for certiorari.

In regards to the future implications of the decision, it’s important to note that many of the high revenue pioneer biologic drugs are set to have their US patents expire within the next few years. This expected “patent cliff’ is certain to drive momentum within the biosimilar market. This wave of biosimilar applications is sure to have large implications upon the BPCIA, and particularly whether the “patent dance” is optional. All considered, the issues presented in Amgen may be approaching a level of importance that draws the attention of SCOTUS. It’s possible that a grant of certiorari may be in order to settle the debate on the BPCIA’s “patent dance” and market disclosure requirements, particularly considering the economic ramification of the anticipated biologics’ patent cliff.