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Author: William Reid

Fluid Catalytic Cracking Patents – 2018/2019: Catalyst Systems

This is an article in a series reviewing Fluid Catalytic Cracking (FCC) patents granted in approximately the last year.  In particular, the patents highlighted here relate to FCC catalyst and additive systems.  One take-away from this review is that the number of such patents as a percentage of the entirety of FCC-related patents, including those related to equipment, processes, feed treatment, environmental, etc., is down to less than a quarter.  This may reflect a shift in research dollars away from the catalyst area, or at least a shift in those research dollars directed to acquiring patentable inventions.  The second take-away is that the catalyst related patents are largely directed to integral multiple zeolite systems for increasing light olefins production, such as USY and ZSM-5.  This was already a fairly crowded area, however, in U.S. Patent No. 10,173,206 assigned to Albemarle Europe SPL, an interesting approach was to combine a Y zeolite exchanged with a non-rare earth material selected from magnesium, calcium or strontium, with a ZSM-5 zeolite, where the ratio of the two zeolites was specified.

Enhanced Oil Recovery Patents – 2018/2019: Ancillary Systems

It is typical for primary aspects of a technology to be recognized as a valuable asset; things readily perceived as inventive deviations from the conventional, technical inflection points that set processes or products apart from comparative offerings of competitors.  Organizations readily recognize such inventions as needing patent protection.  However, patentable inventions don’t always spring from multi-million-dollar R&D budgets.  Often, they result from engineers and scientists simply focusing on the best way to solve a problem, perform some function more efficiently, or getting more product out the door.  As such, they don’t necessarily relate to the central portion of a process or technology.  Nor do they always appear as something patentable, if to the untrained eye they merely resemble useful twists on things known.  For example, boilers, steam generation and their corresponding controls have long been used, however, Patent No. 10,125,973 applies a steam generation process to oil production.  Magnetic separation processes are also known; however, Patent Nos. 10,138,410 & 10,150,908 demonstrate applying a form of magnetic separation to purifying injection well water.  Everyone learns about precipitation separation of compounds from aqueous solutions in chemistry lab, however, Patent No. 10,258,920 demonstrates an application to a Kuwait oilfield.

Enhanced Oil Recovery Patents – 2018/2019 CO2 Injection

Carbon Dioxide injection has been used effectively for enhanced oil recovery from reservoirs, since at high pressures it forms a miscible mixture with oil, increasing the volume of the oil, and allowing it to dislodge additional material from the rock as it pushes through the formation.[1]  CO2 injection is often used in a process known as water alternated with gas (WAG), where the gas and water are alternately injected into the well, thereby mitigating the tendency of the lower density gas to migrate to the top of the reservoir and bypass other sections.[2]  Interest in CO2 injection continues, not simply in conventional oil reservoirs, but in unconventional reservoirs as well.[3]  Not surprisingly, aspects of CO2 injection find their way into patent claims.

Lack of Obviousness in Methods for Cancer Treatment

The ‘209 Patent includes method claims where folic acid and a methylmalonic acid lowering agent (e.g., vitamin B12) are administered prior to treatment with the antifolate pemetrexed disodium, a chemotherapy agent.[3]  The folic acid and methylmalonic acid are used to ameliorate the toxic effects of the pemetrexed.[4]  The heart of the Board’s conclusion was that although it was known to use folic acid to reduce the toxicity of antifolates such as pemetrexed, there was no reason to pretreat with vitamin B12 and folic acid prior to treatment with pemetrexed for cancer.[5]  On appeal, the Petitioner’s obviousness arguments related to the EP005 reference, which taught use of folic acid in conjunction with vitamin B12 to reduce homocysteine levels for all purposes.[6]  Homocysteine is an amino acid, and when present in high levels is predictive of pemetrexed toxicity.[7]  On its face this appears to be a solid case for obviousness.  Indeed, those arguing against motivation to combine during patent prosecution have almost certainly encountered an Examiner’s response referencing MPEP 2144IV at one time or the other:

Déjà vu at the Federal Circuit: Personal Web Technologies, LLC, v. Apple, Inc.

There is a scene in the Big Lebowski where the Dude complains about the lousy day he just had as he tosses down some snacks at a bowling alley bar.  In answer, the Stranger (played by Sam Elliot) offers the above advice as to the Dude’s existential situation.  It didn’t help.  One can almost imagine a similar response from Apple following the Federal Circuit’s decision in Personal Web Technologies, LLC, v. Apple, Inc., 2018-1599 (Fed. Cir. March 8, 2019), since it marked the second time in two years they had won at the Board, only to be disappointed at the Federal Circuit on the same patent, PWT’s 7,802,310 (‘310 Patent)[1].  While the Federal Circuit’s analysis in both cases was nominally different, the underlying theme in both was the need for a proper motivation-to-combine analysis.

Lead Compound Analysis in Mylan v. RCT

Lead compound analysis (LCA) has been used in the evaluation of chemical compound Obviousness for the past 20 years.[1]  This approach supplemented the historic formulation of In re Dillon.[2]  While the Dillon analysis pivots about the structural similarity of the cited compound to that claimed and any motivation to make the claimed compound, LCA involves selection of a lead compound that is the most promising candidate for modification to improve its activity.  As such, it represents a somewhat more difficult standard than in Dillon.

Determining Trademark Confusion with DuPont Factors

Forty years ago, people were dancing to Stayin Alive by the Bee Gee’s, munching on Reese’s Pieces for the first time, and watching John Travolta & Olivia Newton-John in Grease, and Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween (the first one!).  A lucky few were playing Space Invaders on their Atari 2600, or DOS-based games on their Apple II computer; and the iPhone was not yet a glint in Steve Jobs’ eye.  Coincidentally, forty years ago the mark “GUILD INVESTMENT MANAGEMENT” (GIM) was being used by Guild Investment Management, Inc. for investment advisory services while the mark “GUILD MORTGAGE COMPANY” (GMC), owned by Guild Mortgage Company (Guild), was being used for mortgage banking services.[2]  Nevertheless, decades later an application for the GMC mark in International Class 36 was refused by the Examiner, who argued that there was a likelihood of confusion with the GIM mark because “the marks, nature of the services and trade channels were similar.”[3]  The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board agreed, despite finding that “consumers ‘may exercise a certain degree of care in investing money, if not perhaps in seeking a mortgage loan.’”[4]  Guild appealed to the Federal Circuit.

Obviousness, Prodrugs and the Rule of 5: Amerigen Pharmaceuticals Limited v. UCB Pharma GmbH

In Amerigen Pharmaceuticals Limited v. UCB Pharma GMBH, 2017-2596 (Fed. Cir. January 11, 2019), the Federal Circuit upheld the Board’s IPR finding that claims 1-5 and 21-24 of UCB’s U.S. Patent 6,868,650 were not obvious.[1]  The patent claims cover Toviaz® (Fesoterodine), an antimuscarinic drug to treat urinary incontinence.[2]  Judge Lourie included a remark […]