The Future of Skinny Labeling in Patent Litigation Will be Reconsidered

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McDermott Will & Emery

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has now vacated its prior ruling finding induced infringement based on so-called skinny labeling on a pharmaceutical product. GlaxoSmithKline LLC v. Teva Pharmaceuticals USA Inc., Case no.18-1876 (Fed. Cir. Feb. 9, 2021) PER CURIAM. The case concerns communications regarding generic approvals and “skinny labels,” which permit companies to sell pharmaceutical products that omit certain patented uses.

On Oct. 2, 2020, a panel of the Federal Circuit (PROST, C.J ., NEWMAN and MOORE, JJ.) issued an opinion finding that Teva induced infringement of a patent covering GlaxoSmithKline’s (GSK’s) drug Coreg® (carvedilol). In a per curiam Order, the Court has now vacated that opinion and set a new round of oral arguments that was held on February 23.

Teva had requested an en banc rehearing the case, which was denied in the Order vacating the Oct. 2, 2020 opinion while ordering panel rehearing limited to the following issue:

Whether there is substantial evidence to support the jury’s verdict of induced infringement during the time period from January 8, 2008 through April 30, 2011.

Background

GSK’s patent covers a method of using carvedilol, the active ingredient in Coreg®, for the treatment of congestive heart failure. In 2007, the FDA approved Teva’s application to market generic carvedilol tablets. To obtain that approval prior to the expiration of the patent (or prevailing on noninfringement, invalidity, or unenforceability of the patent in litigation), Teva had “carved out” certain patent-protected left ventricular dysfunction uses and only included claims to treat hypertension, i.e., claims not covered by the GSK patent. That original patent expired in 2007, but it was reissued in 2008.

Teva had deliberately omitted congestive heart failure in its label until the FDA made it add that indication in 2011. In accordance with the Order, the February 23 oral argument focued on alleged infringement in the period before the label change, i.e., the period 2008 and 2011. The outcome is expected to turn on associated activities and statements made by Teva that went beyond the approval of the generic drug with skinny labeling, where Teva did not explicitly claim that their product was for the patent-protected uses.

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