is a director in Sterne Kessler’s Biotechnology & Chemical Practice Group. Eric’s practice involves providing strategic counsel to his clients in various areas of patent law, with special emphasis on therapeutic antibodies, gene therapies, CRISPR, vaccines, diagnostics, antisense technologies, personalized medicine, and cell culturing/bioprocessing methods.
This article concerns the impact of Ex Parte Sauerberg, a 2017 Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) decision, on the safe harbor provision of 35 U.S.C. § 121. We address whether Sauerberg is consistent with Federal Circuit law and decades of U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) practice, and discuss implications for practitioners. Section 121 is designed to address potential unfairness that may arise from the interplay of two common aspects of patent prosecution practice.
Courts have long held that “an old product made by a new process is not novel and cannot be patented.” The validity of product claims have generally focused on the product and not the particular process of making the product, as illustrated in Biogen MA Inc. v. EMD Serono, Inc., 976 F.3d 1326 (Fed. Cir. 2020). However, in biotechnology (e.g., recombinant and cellular products), the process or source from which a product is produced can confer distinct, yet difficult to define, structural and/or functional differences. Here, we discuss exemplary cases, and assess whether process-related limitations can still distinguish a claimed product over the art in certain circumstances.