Prometheus Labs. v. Mayo Collaborative Services (Mayo Clinic) (Fed. Cir. 2010)
This case is one of several pending Federal Circuit appeals that are questioning whether medical diagnostic and treatment methods are the proper subject of patent protection.
The claims asserted by Prometheus are directed toward a method of “optimizing therapeutic efficacy” by first administering an active drug (6-thioguanine) to a subject and then using the subject's metabolite blood-level to adjust future doses of the drug. (U.S. Patents 6,355,623 and 6,680,302). Thus, most of the claims are centered around three ordered-steps of:
- administering the drug to the subject;
- determining the amount of drug in the subject’s blood; and
- re-calibrating the drug dosage based on step-2.
A broader claim (claim 46 of the ‘632 patent) eliminates the administering step of claim 1 above.
The district court found the claims invalid as lacking patentable subject matter under 35 U.S.C. 101. On appeal, the Federal Circuit reversed — holding that the steps of “administering a drug” and “determining the level of 6-thioguanine” were both sufficiently transformative of “a particular article into a different state or thing.” That Federal Circut decision was based on the court's machine-or-transformation test that was subsequently discredited by the Supreme Court in Bilski v. Kappos (2010). In the wake of its Bilski decision, the Supreme Court vacated the Federal Circuit's Prometheus decision and remanded for a new opinion. Seeing this as a potential watershed case, Mayo immediately requested that the Federal Circuit hear the case en banc.
Briefing by October 1: The Federal Circuit has apparently denied the en banc request and has moved-forward with a rapid briefing schedule: By October 1, 2010, both parties are scheduled to submit 20–page briefs “addressing the effect of the Supreme Court’s Bilski decision on the disposition of this case. No additional briefing or oral argument is contemplated at this time.” The scheduling order was signed by the court clerk Jan Horbaly.
Judges in Charge: The scheduling order suggests that the remand will be taken as a supplement to the original decision. A quirk of that original decision is that the three-member panel included two judges who are not on the Federal Circuit (Chief Judge Paul Michel (Ret.) and E.D. Texas District Court Judge Ron Clark). The third member of the panel is Judge Lourie. Federal Circuit rules indicate that Judge Clark can retain on the panel on remand, but would not be part of any en banc hearing.
Related cases include Classen Immunotherapies Inc. v. Biogen Idec (method of determining an immunization schedule) and Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics (gene patents).