United States District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania
The motions currently before me are brought under the consolidated antitrust lawsuits referred to as the In re Modafinil Litigation. This litigation revolves around four Hatch-Waxman “reverse payment” settlements entered into in 2005 and 2006 between Defendants Cephalon, Inc. and four generic drug manufacturers. A number of these motions emanate from the inequitable conduct and invalidity findings in the case of Apotex Inc. v. Cephalon Inc. (“the Apotex patent litigation”). In that case, after a bench trial, I found that Cephalon’s RE ‘516 patent was procured through inequitable conduct and that for various reasons, the patent was invalid.
As the discovery phase in the antitrust case comes to a close and trial approaches, I must now decide how my rulings in the Apotex patent litigation will impact the antitrust trial. This issue is the subject of the pending motions.
To the extent it is possible to synthesize all of the issues raised in these motions into one question, it is this: In analyzing the doctrine of collateral estoppel, what preclusive effect, if any, does the finding of inequitable conduct and invalidity in the Apotex patent litigation have on the antitrust claims? Although admittedly oversimplified, Defendants’ position could be characterized as urging that the findings of inequitable conduct and invalidity should have no impact on the antitrust trial and that all questions relating to the procurement of the RE ‘516 patent should be rehashed before the antitrust jury. At the complete opposite end of the spectrum, Plaintiffs essentially urge that the liability portion of the antitrust trial is not needed because the findings of inequitable conduct and invalidity resolve, as a matter of law, most of the antitrust questions in their favor.
A careful examination of the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit’s most recent pronouncement on inequitable conduct in Therasense, Inc. v. Becton, Dickinson & Co., 649 F.3d 1276 (Fed. Cir. 2011), and precedent on collateral estoppel and the Seventh Amendment right to a jury trial leads me to conclude that: (1) Cephalon’s Seventh Amendment right precludes application of the doctrine of collateral estoppel to the finding that Cephalon committed inequitable conduct in procuring the ’516 patent. This issue may be tried before the antitrust jury; (2) collateral estoppel will, however, apply to the invalidity portion of the Apotex patent litigation opinion and precludes Cephalon from relitigating Walker Process materiality; and (3) the Generic Defendants are not bound by these findings. This opinion explains the bases for these conclusions.
A. Events Leading Up to the Filing of the Preclusion Motions
Several important events and decisions have occurred since these lawsuits were originally filed, all of which are important to determining the outcome of the motions at issue. Before delving into the legal analysis, I will take the time here to review these occurrences which include: positions taken by the parties and orders issued pursuant to Rule 42(b), regarding bifurcation of the patent and antitrust claims; pertinent rulings issued by this court and the Federal Circuit regarding Cephalon’s inequitable conduct and the validity of the RE ‘516 patent; and the Federal Circuit’s opinion in Therasense, which significantly changed the standards regarding inequitable conduct.
1.Bifurcation of the Patent and Antitrust Claims
Apotex’s original complaint, filed on June 26, 2006, included antitrust claims and allegations that Cephalon’s RE ‘516 patent was invalid, unenforceable, and not infringed by Apotex’s proposed generic drug. In June 2008, while this case was pending before another judge of this court, Apotex moved to sever or bifurcate its patent claims from the antitrust claims, asserting that resolution of the patent case should not be delayed by the antitrust litigation.
Cephalon opposed this motion on the grounds that there was “substantial overlap” between the patent and antitrust claims, such that bifurcation would result in duplicative discovery and unnecessary extra litigation. Although Cephalon acknowledged that Apotex’s invalidity allegations were “essential” to its monopolization claims, it did not object that a separate trial might deprive it of its right to a jury trial in the antitrust case. (Opp. Mem., doc. no. 90, at 2.) In its reply, Apotex recognized that there was some overlap, but contended that this was not only expected, but that separate trials would promote judicial economy:
The separate proceedings described above recognize that the antitrust claims will turn, at least in part, on resolution of the claims relating to the validity of the patent. If the patent is upheld, the antitrust claims will be substantially weakened—and certain of them, such as the claims under [Walker Process] will likely be rendered unviable. By contrast, the patent challenge involves no antecedent issue that would be decided in adjudicating the antitrust claims.
(Apotex Reply Mem., doc. no. 91, at 3.)
This motion was never decided by the judge then assigned to the case. Instead, the case was reassigned to me on April 28, 2009, and the bifurcation motion was denied without prejudice along with all other pending motions, as part of the reorganization of these cases. Apotex later filed a First Amended Complaint, followed by a Second Amended Complaint, which again contained both patent and antitrust claims. Apotex also refiled its motion to bifurcate the patent claims (now set forth in Counts 1-5) from the rest of its Complaint.
Cephalon opposed the motion, again on the grounds that there was substantial overlap between the patent and antitrust claims, and also argued that the Court should not rule on bifurcation before deciding Cephalon’s motion to dismiss. (Opp. Mem., doc. no. 183, at 5-8.) In its reply, Apotex reiterated that the antitrust trial should not delay the patent case and that a court decision on invalidity was needed to clear the Hatch-Waxman bottleneck so that Apotex could enter the market with its generic drug. (Reply Mem., doc. no. 193, at 1.) Importantly, and especially as far as the Plaintiffs are concerned, Cephalon again failed to raise any concerns that issues decided in the patent trials could have preclusive effect in the antitrust trial and thus compromise its Seventh Amendment rights.
Having been persuaded by Apotex’s bifurcation arguments, I granted the bifurcation motion on January 20, 2010.
2.Findings – The Apotex Patent Litigation
I held two separate bench trials on the patent issues in Apotex v. Cephalon in 2011. The first resulted in a ruling that the RE ‘516 patent is invalid and unenforceable. These decisions were subsequently affirmed by the Federal Circuit. 500 Fed.Appx. 959. In the second trial, I found that Apotex’s proposed generic version of Provigil did not infringe the RE ‘516 patent.
In the opinion concluding that the RE ‘516 patent is invalid and unenforceable—the only opinion relevant to these motions—I made several findings of fact and conclusions of law that form the backdrop of the issues currently before me.
First, the RE ‘516 patent was found invalid based on the on-sale bar, derivation, obviousness, and lack of an adequate written description. Regarding inequitable conduct, I found that Cephalon “never disclosed to the PTO that: (1) Lafon was the manufacturer of [a batch of modafinil (Batch 003) that fell squarely within the patent claims]; (2) Lafon had measured the particle size of that batch prior to providing it to Cephalon; (3) Lafon had manufactured and tested several modafinil API batches and tablet lots that fell within the claim limitations; [and] (4) that the two companies had both supply and license agreements.” Apotex, 2011 WL 6090696, at *26. I concluded that Cephalon made affirmative misrepresentations to the PTO by suggesting that the named inventors had physically manipulated the size of the modafinil particles, when in fact it had done nothing to physically change the modafinil it received from Lafon. Id. Based on these conclusions, I found that Cephalon acted with specific intent to deceive the PTO. Id. at *27.
3.The Law in Effect Regarding Inequitable Conduct at the Time of Bifurcation and During the Patent Invalidity Trial
The findings in the Apotex patent litigation were based on a new standard for inequitable conduct articulated in the Therasense decision. Therasense was decided after the patent trial evidence had closed but before I issued my findings regarding inequitable conduct. Importantly, at the time that the parties’ positions regarding bifurcation were solidified and during the patent invalidity trial, the standards for inequitable conduct were different, in significant ways, from the standards subsequently set out in Therasense. Compare Therasense, 649 F.3d at 1290-91, with Nobelpharma AB v. Implant Innovations, Inc., 141 F.3d 1059, 1069-70 (Fed. Cir. 1998), and Dippin’ Dots, Inc. v. Mosey, 476 F.3d 1337, 1346-47 (Fed. Cir. 2007).
Specifically, at the time bifurcation was considered, the law on inequitable conduct was that the accused infringer had to prove, by clear and convincing evidence, that the applicant misrepresented or omitted material information with the intent to deceive the PTO. Star Scientific, Inc. v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., 537 F.3d 1357, 1365 (Fed. Cir. 2008). The intent prong of this standard could be satisfied based on gross negligence. Driscoll v. Cembalo, 731 F.2d 878, 885 (Fed. Cir. 1984); see also, Kingsdown Medical Consultants, LLC v. Hollister, Inc., 863 F.2d 867, 876 (Fed. Cir. 1988) (finding that gross negligence could be a sufficient level of culpability to satisfy the intent prong where the totality of the circumstances suggested an intent to deceive). The materiality part of this prior standard was analyzed under a “reasonable examiner” test. Am. Hoist & Derrick Co. v. Showa & Sons, Inc., 725 F.2d 1350, 1362 (Fed. Cir. 1984). That is, materiality could be found where “there is a substantial likelihood that a reasonable examiner would have considered the information important in deciding whether to allow the application to issue as a patent.” Molins PLC v. Textron, Inc., 48 F.3d 1172, 1179 (Fed. Cir. 1995). If the record contained strong evidence of materiality, the standards for intent could be reduced and materiality and intent could be considered together, applying a “sliding scale” analysis. Am. Hoist & Derrick, 725 F.2d at 1363.
In contrast, at the time of bifurcation, Walker Process fraud entailed distinctly more serious deception than inequitable conduct. Two cases relied upon by Cephalon firmly support this position.
In Nobelpharma, 141 F.3d 1059, the court noted the differences between a Walker Process claim and inequitable conduct, stating:
Consistent with the Supreme Court’s analysis in Walker Process, as well as Justice Harlan’s concurring opinion, we have distinguished “inequitable conduct” from Walker Process fraud, noting that inequitable conduct is a broader, more inclusive concept than the common law fraud needed to support a Walker Process counterclaim.
Id. at 1069. In so ruling, the Federal Circuit emphasized that Walker Process fraud “is a more serious offense than inequitable conduct.” Id. at 1070. This is because a finding of inequitable conduct “may be based on evidence of a lesser misrepresentation or an omission, such as omission of a reference that would merely have been considered important to the patentability of a claim by a reasonable examiner, ” while “[a] finding of Walker Process fraud requires higher threshold showings of both intent and materiality.” Id.
Dippin’ Dots, Inc. v. Mosey, 476 F.3d 1337, 1346 (Fed. Cir. 2007) also supports Cephalon’s position that, pre-Therasense, a finding of inequitable conduct could not be applied preclusively to establish Walker Process fraud. The Federal Circuit emphasized that “[a] finding of inequitable conduct does not, by itself, suffice to support a finding of Walker Process fraud.” Id. The Court explained that “inequitable conduct [was] a broader, more inclusive concept than the common law fraud needed to support a Walker Process counterclaim.” Id. (quoting Nobelpharma, 141 F.3d at 1069). Comparing the two doctrines, the Dippin’ Dots court stated that “the difference in breadth between inequitable conduct and Walker Process fraud admits the possibility of a close case whose facts reach the level of inequitable conduct, but not of fraud before the PTO.” Id. at 1347.
Thus, had Therasense not raised the standards for inequitable conduct, Plaintiffs could not credibly argue that my finding of Cephalon’s inequitable conduct had any preclusive effect on the pending Walker Process antitrust claims. Plaintiffs concede this point, as they must, (Tr. 1/23/14 at 143:4-5) but strenuously assert that Therasense now mandates that my finding of ...