540 F.3d 1368 (Fed. Cir. 2008), 2007-1534, In re Swanson

Docket Nº:2007-1534.
Citation:540 F.3d 1368
Party Name:In re Melvin J. SWANSON and Patrick E. Guire.
Case Date:September 04, 2008
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit

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540 F.3d 1368 (Fed. Cir. 2008)

In re Melvin J. SWANSON and Patrick E. Guire.

No. 2007-1534.

United States Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit.

September 4, 2008

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Robert M. Asher, Bromberg & Sunstein LLP, of Boston, Massachusetts, argued for appellants.

Mary L. Kelly, Associate Solicitor, United States Patent and Trademark Office, of Arlington, Virginia, argued for the Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office. With her on the brief were Stephen Walsh, Acting Solicitor, and Robert J. McManus, Associate Solicitor.

Before LOURIE, BRYSON, and GAJARSA, Circuit Judges.

GAJARSA, Circuit Judge.

This is an appeal from the United States Patent and Trademark Office's (“PTO" ) Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences (“Board" ). The Board upheld the examiner's rejection of claims 22-25 of U.S. Patent No. 5,073,484 (“the '484 patent" ) in a reexamination proceeding. In re Swanson, No.2005-0725, Reexamination No. 90/006,785 (B.P.A.I. May 29, 2007). Previously, this court had affirmed a district court judgment that claims 22 and 23 of the ' 484 patent were not invalid. Abbott Labs. v. Syntron Bioresearch, Inc., 334 F.3d 1343 (Fed.Cir.2003) (“Abbott Labs. II " ). We hold that under 35 U.S.C. § 303(a), as amended in 2002, despite consideration of U.S. Patent No. 4,094,647 (“Deutsch" ) in the initial examination and our prior decision, there was a substantial new question of patentability regarding

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whether Deutsch anticipated and made obvious claims 22-25 that made reexamination warranted. As the patentee does not raise additional objections to the Board's rejections over Deutsch, the Board's finding that claims 22-25 of the '484 patent were anticipated and would have been obvious in light of Deutsch is affirmed.


A. The '484 Patent

The '484 patent was filed on February 23, 1983, by Melvin Swanson and Patrick Guire. The patent discloses a method of quantitatively analyzing small amounts of biological fluids, such as milk, blood, and urine, or other solutions, to detect the presence of a particular substance (the analyte). In the method disclosed, one or more “reaction zones" containing a bound reactant are spaced out on a test strip made of a liquid-permeable solid. '484 patent col.2 ll.6-10. A test solution is applied to the test strip and moves along a flow path, encountering these reactant-containing zones sequentially. When a solution containing the requisite analyte reaches each of the reaction zones, a predetermined product forms. Id. col.2 ll.12-14. Selected detectors in the reaction zones indicate, preferably by a change of color, the presence of analyte, reactant, or predetermined product. Id. col.8 ll.47-54. The specification does not limit the invention to any one type of detection and suggests that the analyte can be “substantially all chemical substances that are reactive with a reactant to form a product." Id. col.7 ll.16-19.

Claim 22, the independent claim at issue, is characteristic of the patent and claims a method of detection in which the analyte and reactant form a ligand-antiligand binding pair:

A method for analysis of an analyte which is a member of a ligand-antiligand binding pair in a test solution comprising the steps of:

(a) providing a non-diffusively immobilized reactant in each of one or more reaction zones spaced successively along a flow path defined by a liquid permeable medium, wherein said reactant is the other member of said binding pair and is capable of binding with the analyte to form a predetermined product;

(b) flowing said solution along the medium and sequentially through the reaction zone(s); and

(c) detecting the presence of analyte, said reactant or said predetermined product in the reaction zone(s), wherein the number of zones in which detection occurs is related to the presence [sic] of analyte solution.

Id. col.18 ll.9-25. A preferred embodiment is an immunoassay, in which the ligand-antiligand pair is an antigen-antibody pair.

In addition to claim 22, there are three dependent claims relevant to this appeal: claims 23, 24, and 25. Claim 23 limits the ligand-antiligand pair by requiring that one part of the pair be “labeled with a chemical moiety, and wherein such detecting step comprises detecting the presence of said chemical moiety." Id. col.18 ll.26-30. Claims 24 and 25 additionally limit the chemical moiety to including an enzyme and being a radioisotope, respectively. Id. col.18 ll.31-34.

B. Prior Art

U.S. Patent No. 4,094,647 (“Deutsch" ) also discloses a method of detecting ligand-antiligand binding pairs in order to determine the presence of a ligand (the analyte) in a biological fluid sample. In Deutsch, a test strip is prepared in which a reagent is immobilized in a downstream portion of the strip and the test solution is applied to the other end. The edge of the strip is

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then immersed in “developing fluid" which progresses upstream. Deutsch col.3 ll.59-62. When the developing fluid reaches the test solution, the two liquids combine and advance through the reaction zone(s) to the terminating end. Id. col.3 ll.63-64. If analyte is present, it binds with the reagents in the reaction zones and forms a detectable product. The detectable product may be labeled with “any chemical substance or moiety having a detectable characteristic" including radioactivity. Id. col.8 ll.60-67. A preferred embodiment is an immunoassay, or immunoreaction, in which the reactant contains an antibody capable of specifically binding to the antigen in the test sample.

U.S. Patent No. 3,641,235 (“Weiss" ) teaches a similar immunoassay method for visually detecting the presence of an analyte in biological fluid. In Weiss, the visual readout is an indicator that is either fixated in the reaction zone in the presence of the analyte or released in the presence of the analyte, in which case the release can be observed by the presence of the indicator material in the fluid front of the test solution moving forward on the strip. Weiss cols. 3-5.

U.S. Patent No. 3,466,241 (“Tom" ) discloses another immunoassay method, in which one of the reagents comprises “a signal creating system." Tom col.3 ll.1-5, ll.47-49. Tom's signal producing system includes “radioactive substances, enzymes and chromogenic substances...." Id. col.5 ll.1-10.

C. Initial Examination

The examiner initially rejected all the claims in the application that resulted in the '484 patent as obvious under 35 U.S.C. § 103, in light of various combinations of references. Office Action No. 467229, September 7, 1984 (“Original Office Action" ). The method claimed in original claim 9 was nearly identical to the one claimed in claim 22 of the issued patent, differing primarily in that it required multiple reaction zones and did not require that the analyte-reactant pair be a ligand-antiligand binding pair.1 Claim 9 was rejected (along with claims 1, 2, 4-6, and 8) “under 35 U.S.C. 103 as being unpatentable over either Morison or Bauer et al in view of Peurifoy et al." Id. at 9. The examiner explained that Morison and Bauer each disclose a method that is “basically the same" as that disclosed by the applicants, and that it would have been obvious that the reagent in Morison and Bauer could be separated into multiple reaction zones to permit quantification, as described in Peurifoy. Id. In the application as filed, claim 10 was dependent on claim 9 and added the limitation that the analyte and reactant be a “specific ligand-antiligand binding pair." Claim 11 further specified that the reactant in the ligand-antiligand binding pair of claim 10 include an antibody. The examiner rejected these and similar dependent claims under 35 U.S.C. § 103“as being unpatentable over either Morison or Bauer et al in view of Peurifoy et al as applied to claims 1, 2, 4-6, 8 and 9 above,

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and further in view of any one of Ruhenstroth-Bauer et al, Brown et al and Deutsch et al." Original Office Action at 9. The examiner explained that “it would be obvious that any known reaction within reasons [sic] could be incorporated in the modified method and apparatus of either Morison and [sic] Bauer, as see for example, the immunoreactions of Ruhenstroth-Bauer et al, Brown et al and Deutsch." 2 Id. at 9-10.

The claims were amended, and on December 17, 1991, the '484 patent was granted. Subsequently, the '484 patent was assigned to Surmodics, Inc. (“Surmodics" or “patentee" ), the real party at interest in the current proceedings, who exclusively licensed the patent to Abbott Laboratories (“Abbott" ).

D. Abbott v. Syntron

On December 30, 1998, Abbott sued Syntron Bioresearch, Inc. (“Syntron" ) for infringement of two patents, one of which was the '484 patent. Syntron counterclaimed that the patents were invalid, claiming, inter alia, that claims 22 and 23 of the '484 patent were invalid in light of Deutsch. On October 4, 2001, the jury returned a special verdict finding that the asserted claims of the patents-in-suit were not infringed and that Syntron had failed to prove by clear and convincing evidence that the claims were anticipated, obvious, or otherwise invalid. The district court entered judgment accordingly. Abbott Labs. v. Syntron Bioresearch, Inc., No. 98-CV-2359 (S.D.Cal. Oct. 12, 2001) (“Abbot Labs I " ). Abbott appealed, and Syntron cross-appealed to this court.

On appeal, we affirmed-in-part and remanded-in-part the judgment of noninfringement of the '484 patent and affirmed the judgment of validity on all asserted claims of the '484 patent. Abbott Labs. v. Syntron Bioresearch, Inc., 334 F.3d 1343 (Fed.Cir.2003) (“Abbott Labs. II " ). In particular, we sustained the judgment that Deutsch did not anticipate the asserted claims, noting that “the burden having been on Syntron to prove by clear and convincing evidence that the claims were anticipated, we cannot conclude that the jury verdict...

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