In an interview with Ha Kung Wong, JD, he addresses the patent legal system biosimilars are required to undergo and how this helps resolve patent disputes early in the development process.
Partner of Venable LLP, Ha Kung Wong, JD, is a lawyer practicing general intellectual property law, emphasizing patent and trade secret litigations. Wong negotiates for mergers, acquisitions, vendor agreements, and collaborations in pharmaceuticals, biologics, chemistry, medical devices, digital health, and artificial intelligence. He has represented Alkermes, Allergan, Alnylam, Materia, Shionogi, Stemline, UCB, and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Gates MRI as clients.
This interview for the Center for Biosimilars® focuses on Wong's perspective of the patent legal system, the importance of this process, and how it affects biosimilar development.
Can you explain the patent legal system biosimilars are required to undergo and why this process is important to their development?
Sure, so for biosimilars, there's the BPCIA or the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act of 2009, which is actually an optional framework of information exchanges between biosimilars and the reference product sponsor, or what we call the RPS, prior to filing an infringement lawsuit.
The BPCIA allows for 2 phases of litigation. One, following the biosimilars aBLA [abbreviated biologics license application] submission and the second phase triggered by the biosimilars notice of commercial marketing. Now, the idea is that the most important patents can be dealt with while the biosimilar application is under FDA review. That gives the possibility of resolving the lawsuit after only litigating a small subset of patents, instead of the RPS' entire portfolio. That can be quite large and sometimes in the hundreds.
So, to start this first phase exchange of materials, which is often referred to as the patent dance, the biosimilar notifies the RPS that the FDA has accepted its biosimilar application within 20 days of that acceptance and provides the RPS with its aBLA and "other manufacturing information".
That starts off this kind of exchange of information regarding the patents that might be infringed by the biosimilar and which they think might be likely to be licensed whether the biosimilar feels like there is an infringement, validity, or enforceability problem or not. Ultimately, what happens in the first round of litigation is that you narrow the number of patents that you actually litigate right away. If the parties can't agree, the BPCIA gives a provision for determining the list of patents that can be litigated in the first phase and the remainder gets litigated in the second phase.
For most BPCIA litigations that most parties have participated in at least some part of the dance and as I mentioned before, it was after the statute came out it was decided by the courts that this was optional.
A lot of people said, "Well, why would anybody go through this?" It turns out, it helps both sides, right? The biosimilar gets that chance to narrow it down to the patents that are most important so they're not expending an enormous amount of resources litigating hundreds of patents, and the RPS gets a chance to really zone in on the patents that are most important to them and try to protect them first, then try to seek licenses on those that can be some sort of settlement. So 24 of the litigations that have occurred, have completed this entire patent dance, 19 participated in some portion of it and didn't finish, but only 9 didn't participate.
You can see that even though it's optional, a lot of parties find some benefit to going through this process. Now, the interesting thing about it is that when it came out, I thought this is the most half-baked process ever.
That's still true, but it's better than nothing is what I think is happening. Most of the BPCIA litigations are actually ending in settlements. Thirty-one of 46, or 67%, of terminated BPCIA litigations ended in settlement or stipulated voluntary dismissals.
Very few cases have gotten the verdict, which is actually part of what we want. I think this statistic that I'm raising is demonstrating that the primary benefit of the BPCIA process is being met. That was to resolve any patent related disputes early, prior to impact on the market, thus allowing both parties to direct resources appropriately to their respective products and avoid the need to address potential damages.
In many ways, this is similar to what the Hatch-Waxman process was meant to address for small molecules. So far, it appears to be working for biologics and biosimilars, and really helping in development on both sides.