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Federal Circuit Affirms As Obvious Suite of Patents Directed to Methods Of Treating Opioid Overdose

(Co-authored by Alexandra Kim)

Introduction

In February of 2022, the Federal Circuit affirmed a New Jersey District Court’s determination that four patents claiming methods of treating opioid overdose by intranasal administration of a naloxone formulation, as well as devices for intranasal administration, were invalid as obvious over two, three-reference, sets of prior art. A panel majority found that all of the individual components of the claimed methods were taught in the prior art and that a person of ordinary skill in the art (POSA) would have been motivated to combine such teachings because there was a strong desire in the prior art to improve upon existing but deficient methods for treating overdose.

In a 15-page dissent, Judge Newman criticized the majority’s logic, asserting that there was no evidence of “teaching or suggestion in the prior art” to make the claimed combination of ingredients for use in the claimed method so as to achieve the described beneficial results. She faulted the majority for relying on “the need for a better product” to provide motivation since “the artisan’s knowledge that the available products are deficient does not render the remedy obvious when it is eventually discovered.”

While the challenger here prevailed, this opinion—both the majority and the dissent—provides valuable guidance (and caution) for assembling multi-reference obviousness challenges.

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