Actavis v Eli Lilly. On the extent to which patent DNIs (Declarations of non-Infringement) are covered by Rome II’s exception for procedure.

Update 14 July 2017 the judgment was overturned by the Supreme Court [2017] UKSC 48, albeit not on the issues discussed here.

Actavis UK Ltd & Ors v Eli Lilly & Company [2015] EWCA Civ 555 discusses ia, at 100 ff, the question whether under Rome II the English court must apply the corresponding foreign laws governing the conditions for applying for patent ‘declarations of non-infringement’ (DNIs) in each of the foreign jurisdictions, or whether English law, as the lex fori, applies. English law takes  a more relaxed attitude amongst the EU Member States re what must be shown before a party can apply to the court for a DNI.

Are the rules for obtaining DNIs matters of procedure, falling outside the scope of Rome II per Article 1(3)? The judge whose findings were being appealed had held that DNI standing rules are not concerned with the substantive rights and obligations of the parties with regard to infringement of the patent in suit: they fall under the procedural exception. Viz the argument that Article 15(c) (A15 deals with the ‘scope of the law applicable’) he had held that there is a distinction to be drawn between the availability in principle of a remedy and the steps which must be taken in order to obtain that remedy. It was in his judgment only the former which was caught by Article 15 and made subject to the lex causae.

Longmore LJ at 138 referred to Wall v Mutelle de Poitiers Assurances and agreed with the first instance judge that the rules with which the case is concerned are conditions of admissibility of actions, rather than rules concerned with the substance or content of parties’ rights. They are covered by the exception for procedure and hence subject to the lex fori, English law. At 144 ff he rejects the applicability of specific parts of Article 15 to the various conditions relating to DNIs.

Interesting and relevant.

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU Private International Law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 4.

 

Actavis v Eli Lilly in the High Court: Better reach for a tablet when litigating patents.

In [2012] EWHC 3316 (Pat) Actavis v Eli Lilly, the High Court (Patents) upheld jurisdiction for the English courts to hear a case in which applicant seeks a pan-European declaration of non-infringement of a patent. Actavis, a generics manufacturer, sought declaration that it had not infringed Eli Lilly’s patent for Permetrexed, a cancer treatment.

Arnold J, along the lines of  the Supreme Court’s decision in Lucasfilm v Ainsworth, held that forum non conveniens arguments would not sway the Court towards declining jurisdiction for the non-UK parts of the declaration (Germany, France, Italy, Spain).  Arnold J referred to the de facto approximation of patent law in the various EU Member States:

‘As to the different national approaches, I accept that there are differences. In my view, however, the differences are rather less now than they have been in the past. Certainly, in recent years the European patent judiciary have been striving for consistency. I am sceptical that the remaining differences of approach, as opposed to other factors, are responsible for different outcomes in parallel cases. In any event, it seems to me to be manifest that it will reduce the likelihood of inconsistent decisions if one court at first instance and one court on appeal determines all five of Actavis’ claims.

The judgment adds to the layer of complexity in intellectual property litigation. Prima facie the judgment may offer a great means to have pan-European patent infringement cases held in England (the very reference to a number of pending trial dates even in Germany, quietly underline the speed with which the UK can hear cases such as these).

Distinguishing is however of the essence:

– Actavis are headquartered in Switzerland (one will recall that under the Brussels I Regulation, the plaintiff’s domicile or nationality is generally irrelevant). Defendant is domiciled in the State of Indiana, United States. The declarations are not sought against any EU domiciled companies – Brussels I is not applicable. The outcome may be entirely different had the opposite been the case.

– The validity of Lilly’s patent is not sub judice. This too, even outside the Jurisdiction Regulation (where the exclusive ground of Article 22(4) would have trumped English jurisdiction), may have led to a different outcome under forum non conveniens arguments.

– Arnold J’s suggestion of de facto approximation may not hold with the ECJ for actions which do come within the Jurisdiction Regulation. As reported on this blog, even in Solvay, the ECJ  does not drop its insistence per Roche that de lege lata, European patent law remains national.

All of this may lead indeed to the awkward result that patent infringement cases are more swiftly and expertly dealt with in EU courts against non-EU defendants, then against EU defendants.

Geert.