Wednesday, May 13, 2020

No Opportunity to Appeal Means No Abuse of Process in Relitigating Previously Decided Issues

Amgen Inc v Pfizer Canada ULC 2020 FC 522 Southcott J
            1,341,537 / filgrastim / NEUPOGEN / NIVESTYM

My first post on this decision gave an overview of the facts and discussed the main substantive holding, namely that the invention was obvious. The decision also raised an issue of abuse of process, though one that should largely disappear with the new NOC actions.

Amgen had previously asserted the 537 patent against Apotex in proceedings under the old PM(NOC) Regulations, and lost before Hughes J who held the 537 patent invalid for obviousness: Amgen v Apotex 2015 FC 1261 [the Hughes Decision] (here) aff’d as moot 2016 FCA 196. Pfizer had earlier brought a motion seeking dismissal of Amgen’s on the basis of abuse of process. The motion was dismissed, 2018 FC 1078, but in affirming the decision dismissing the motion the FCA, 2019 FCA 249, stated that Pfizer was not precluded from raising the abuse of process doctrine at trial in connection with individual factual and legal findings in the Hughes Decision: see here. In this action, Pfizer accordingly argued that it would be an abuse of process for Amgen to re-litigate certain factual and legal issues that had been decided by Hughes J.

Southcott J exercised his discretion not to apply the abuse of process doctrine, primarily because Amgen had not had the opportunity to appeal the Hughes Decision [160]. Southcott J noted:

[164] In my view, it is unfair to hold Amgen to the results of the Apotex Decision in the current proceedings, when it did not have the benefit of substantive appellate review of that decision. As Amgen emphasizes, the Federal Court of Appeal in Amgen Canada dismissed Amgen’s appeal for mootness in part because it could pursue a subsequent infringement action (at para 22). In conclusion on this issue, regardless of the scope of Amgen’s burden to identify evidence warranting reconsideration of the issues before Justice Hughes,

This observation strikes me as compelling. Presumably such issues will largely disappear with the new NOC actions.

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