IP Law Daily Method for finding disease in rodents passes Alice/Mayo test
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Friday, July 8, 2016

Method for finding disease in rodents passes Alice/Mayo test

By Peter Reap, J.D., LL.M.

Patents asserted by plaintiffs IDEXX Laboratories, Inc. and IDEXX Distribution, Inc. for "a method of determining a presence or absence of an infectious disease in a population of rodents" through the use of blood samples placed on collection cards satisfied the two-step inquiry laid out by the Supreme Court "for distinguishing patents that claim laws of nature, natural phenomena, and abstract ideas from those that claim patent-eligible applications of those concepts," the federal district court in Wilmington, Delaware, has decided. Although the patents are directed to the abstract idea of collecting and analyzing results, they also express an inventive concept sufficient to transform that idea into a patent-eligible application (Idexx Laboratories, Inc. v. Charles River Laboratories, Inc., July 7, 2016, Andrews, R.).

The patents at issue. The plaintiffs allege that the defendants infringe U.S. Patent Nos. 8,927,298 (the "’298 patent"), 8,945,945, and 9,040,308. By using known blood collection cards and immunoassay techniques, the claimed invention "provide[s] a simplified and efficient method for sample collection analysis to ensure cost effective colony management."

The Alice/Mayo test. The Supreme Court recently reaffirmed the framework laid out in Mayo Collaborative Servs. v. Prometheus Labs., Inc., 132 S. Ct. 1289, (2012)"for distinguishing patents that claim laws of nature, natural phenomena, and abstract ideas from those that claim patent-eligible applications of those concepts." Alice Corp. Pty. v. CLS Bank Int’l, 134 S. Ct. 2347, 2355 (2014). First, the court must determine whether the claims are drawn to a patent-ineligible concept. Id. If the answer is yes, the court must look to "the elements of the claim both individually and as an 'ordered combination"' to see if there is an "'inventive concept'-i.e., an element or combination of elements that is 'sufficient to ensure that the patent in practice amounts to significantly more than a patent upon the [ineligible concept] itself."' Id.

Further, The Federal Circuit has held that the district court is not required to individually address claims not asserted or identified by the non-moving party, so long as the court identifies a representative claim and all the claims are substantially similar and linked to the same abstract idea. The parties agreed that claim 1 of the '298 patent is representative, the court noted.

Mayo/Alice step one. The defendants argued that the representative claim is directed to the abstract idea of "analyzing blood and reporting results." The plaintiffs contended that this is an overbroad generalization which fails to account for the concrete steps specifically directed to an improved method. The plaintiffs also analogized the claim at issue here to those found patentable in DDR Holdings, LLC v. Hotels.com, L.P., 773 F.3d 1245 (Fed. Cir. 2014).

Here, the steps of claim 1 are directed to the abstract idea of collecting, analyzing, and reporting results, the court determined. This well-known abstract idea is not meaningfully different from those found abstract in numerous other cases.

The plaintiffs reliance on DDR Holdings' "rooted in technology" language was misplaced. In DDR Holdings, the Federal Circuit stated that "identifying the precise nature of the abstract idea [was] not as straightforward as in Alice" or other cases. DDR Holdings, 773 F.3d at 1257. The court then simply assumed that the patent-in-suit was directed to an abstract idea, and proceeded to Mayo/Alice step two.

The representative claim here is not "unambiguously" directed to a specific improvement, the court said. Instead, the abstract idea predominates each step of the claim. Thus, while the claim may implement the abstract idea in a specific and novel way, the character of the claims as a whole is directed to excluded subject matter.

Mayo/Alice step two. Here, some of the non-patent-ineligible elements amount to no more than well-understood, routine, conventional activity already engaged in by those in the field. For instance, the patent describes the required "blood collection cards" as prior art, and even provides examples of certain commercially-available brands. Moreover, the blood samples are "analyzed for the presence or absence of a biological marker" through the use of Multiplex Fluorescent Immunoassay or "other know[n] immunoassay techniques known to those of skill in the art." There is, however, something "else ... in the claims before us" which supplies the requisite inventive concept, according to the court. Mayo, 132 S. Ct. at 1297.

Here, dried blood spot analysis ("DBS") and immunoassay are not generic components which serve only to limit the use of the idea to a particular technological environment, the court reasoned. Rather, when examined as an ordered combination of limitations, they describe a specific, novel implementation of the abstract idea of collecting, analyzing, and reporting. The representative claim includes the inventive concept of using DBS technology to monitor the health of rodent populations by analyzing blood for biomarkers of infectious disease. The elements expressing this inventive concept, when viewed together, amount to "more than a drafting effort designed to monopolize the [abstract idea] itself." Mayo, 132 S. Ct. at 1297.

The advances over the prior art are clear, the court explained. The invention permits one to monitor the health of rodent populations without euthanizing animals, waiting for blood to clot in a centrifuge, or shipping blood serum overnight in a refrigerated container. This inventive concept is sufficient to transform the abstract idea into a patent-eligible application of that idea.

The case is No. 1:15-cv-00668-RGA.

Attorneys: Philip A. Rovner (Potter, Anderson & Corroon LLP) for IDEXX Laboratories, Inc. and IDEXX Distribution, Inc. Jack B. Blumenfeld (Morris, Nichols, Arsht & Tunnell LLP) for Charles River Laboratories, Inc. and Charles River Laboratories International, Inc.

Companies: IDEXX Laboratories, Inc.; IDEXX Distribution, Inc.; Charles River Laboratories, Inc.; Charles River Laboratories International, Inc.

MainStory: TopStory Patent DelawareNews

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