Helsinn Healthcare S. A. v. Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc., et al.
Note: Where it is feasible, a syllabus (headnote) will be released, as is being done in connection with this case, at the time the opinion is issued. The syllabus constitutes no part of the opinion of the Court but has been prepared by the Reporter of Decisions for the convenience of the reader. See United States v. Detroit Timber & Lumber Co., 200 U. S. 321, 337.
SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
HELSINN HEALTHCARE S. A. v. TEVA PHARMACEUTICALS USA, INC., ET AL.
CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FEDERAL CIRCUIT
No. 17–1229. Argued December 4, 2018–Decided January 22, 2019.
Petitioner Helsinn Healthcare S. A. makes a treatment for chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting using the chemical palonosetron. While Helsinn was developing its palonosetron product, it entered into two agreements with another company granting that company the right to distribute, promote, market, and sell a 0.25 mg dose of palonosetron in the United States. The agreements required that the company keep confidential any proprietary information received under the agreements. Nearly two years later, in January 2003, Helsinn filed a provisional patent application covering a 0.25 mg dose of palonosetron. Over the next 10 years, Helsinn filed four patent applications that claimed priority to the January 2003 date. Relevant here, Helsinn filed its fourth patent application in 2013. That patent (the ’219 patent) covers a fixed dose of 0.25 mg of palonosetron in a 5 ml solution and is covered by the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act (AIA).
In 2011, respondents Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, Ltd., and Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc. (collectively Teva), sought approval to market a generic 0.25 mg palonosetron product. Helsinn sued Teva for infringing its patents, including the ’219 patent. Teva countered that the ’219 patent was invalid under the “on sale” provision of the AIA–which precludes a person from obtaining a patent on an invention that was “in public use, on sale, or otherwise available to the public before the effective filing date of the claimed invention,” 35 U. S. C. §102(a)(1)–because the 0.25 mg dose was “on sale” more than one year before Helsinn filed the provisional patent application in 2003. The District Court held that the AIA’s “on sale” provision did not apply because the public disclosure of the agreements did not disclose the 0.25 mg dose. The Federal Circuit reversed, holding that the sale was publicly disclosed, regardless of whether the details of the invention were publicly disclosed in the terms of the sale agreements.
Held: A commercial sale to a third party who is required to keep the invention confidential may place the invention “on sale” under §102(a). The patent statute in force immediately before the AIA included an on-sale bar. This Court’s precedent interpreting that provision supports the view that a sale or offer of sale need not make an invention available to the public to constitute invalidating prior art. See, e. g., Pfaff v. Wells Electronics, Inc., 525 U. S. 55, 67. The Federal Circuit had made explicit what was implicit in this Court’s pre-AIA precedent, holding that “secret sales” could invalidate a patent. Special Devices, Inc. v. OEA, Inc., 270 F. 3d 1353, 1357. Given this settled pre-AIA precedent, the Court applies the presumption that when Congress reenacted the same “on sale” language in the AIA, it adopted the earlier judicial construction of that phrase. The addition of the catchall phrase “or otherwise available to the public” is not enough of a change for the Court to conclude that Congress intended to alter the meaning of “on sale.” Paroline v. United States, 572 U. S. 434, and Federal Maritime Comm’n v. Seatrain Lines, Inc., 411 U. S. 726, distinguished. Pp. 5–9.
855 F. 3d 1356, affirmed.
Thomas, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.