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SEC Filings

10-Q
PROTEON THERAPEUTICS INC filed this Form 10-Q on 11/07/2017
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Risks Related to Our Intellectual Property

 

If our efforts to protect our intellectual property related to vonapanitase or any additional product candidates are not adequate, we may not be able to compete effectively in our market.

 

We rely upon a combination of patents, patent applications, know-how and confidentiality agreements to protect the intellectual property related to our only product candidate, vonapanitase, and will use a similar strategy to protect any additional product candidates. The patent position of biotechnology companies is generally uncertain because it involves complex legal and factual considerations. The standards applied by the United States Patent and Trademark Office, or USPTO, and foreign patent offices in granting patents are not always applied uniformly or predictably. For example, there is no uniform worldwide policy regarding patentable subject matter or the scope of claims allowable in biotechnology patents. The patent applications that we own may fail to result in issued patents with claims that cover vonapanitase or any additional product candidates in the United States or in other countries. There is no assurance that all potentially relevant prior art relating to our patents and patent applications has been found, and prior art that is not before the patent examiners, as well as prior art that is before the patent examiners, could be used by a third party to invalidate a patent or could be relied on to prevent a patent from issuing from a pending patent application. Even if patents do successfully issue and even if these patents cover vonapanitase or any additional product candidates, third parties may challenge their validity, enforceability or scope, which may result in our patents being narrowed or invalidated.

 

Furthermore, even if they are unchallenged, our patents and patent applications may not adequately provide exclusivity for vonapanitase or any additional product candidates, prevent others from designing around our patents with similar products that are outside the scope of our patents, or prevent others from operating in jurisdictions in which we did not pursue patent protection. Any of these outcomes could impair our ability to prevent competition from third parties, which may have an adverse impact on our business.

 

If patent applications we hold with respect to vonapanitase or any additional product candidates fail to issue, if their breadth or strength of protection is threatened, or if they fail to provide meaningful exclusivity for vonapanitase or any additional product candidates, it could dissuade companies from collaborating with us. As of September 30, 2017 we own 37 issued patents and own 21 pending patent applications, most of which cover aspects of vonapanitase or its use. We cannot offer any assurances about which, if any, of the pending patent applications will issue as patents, the breadth of any such patents or any of our currently issued patents, or whether any issued patents will be challenged by third parties or will be found invalid and unenforceable if challenged. Any successful challenge to these patent applications, or patents that may issue from them, or to currently issued patents owned by us, could deprive us of rights necessary for the successful commercialization of vonapanitase or any other product candidate that we may develop. Since patent applications in the United States and most other countries are confidential for a period of time after filing, and some remain so until issued, we cannot be certain that we were the first to file a patent application relating to any particular aspect of a product candidate. Furthermore, if third parties have filed such patent applications, an interference proceeding in the United States can be initiated by these third parties, or by the USPTO itself, to determine who was the first to invent any of the subject matter covered by the patent claims of our patents and patent applications.

 

In the United States, for patent applications filed prior to March 16, 2013, assuming the other requirements for patentability are met, the first to invent is entitled to the patent, while outside the United States, the first to file a patent application is entitled to the patent. Our currently pending utility patent applications are examined under the system in place before March 16, 2013. Third parties are allowed to submit prior art prior to the issuance of a patent by the USPTO, and may become involved in reexamination, inter partes review or interference proceedings challenging our patent rights. An adverse determination in any such submission, proceeding or litigation could reduce the scope of, or invalidate, our patent rights, which could adversely affect our competitive position with respect to third parties.

 

In addition, patents have a limited lifespan. In most countries, the statutory term of a patent is 20 years from the earliest domestic priority date claimed. In the United States, for applications filed after June 7, 1995, the statutory term of a patent is 20 years from earliest non-provisional priority date claimed. Various extensions of patent protection may be available in particular countries; however, in all circumstances, the life of a patent, and the protection it affords, has a limited term. If we encounter delays in obtaining regulatory approvals, the period of time during which we could market a product under patent protection could be reduced. We expect to seek extensions of patent protection where these are available in any countries where we are prosecuting patents. Such possible extensions include those permitted under the Drug Price Competition and Patent Term Restoration Act of 1984 in the United States, which permits up to five years’ extension of patent protection and no more than fourteen years following product approval for a single patent that covers an FDA-approved drug or biologic that contains an active ingredient or salt or ester of the active ingredient that has not previously been marketed. The scope of protection available during an extension of a patent claiming a product is limited to the approved product itself for approved uses, and the scope of protection available during an extension of a patent claiming a method of using a product is limited to the uses claimed in the patent and approved for the product. The actual length of the extension is calculated by adding one half of the time between the IND effective date and a company's initial submission of a marketing application, plus the entire time between the submission of the marketing application and the FDA's approval of the application. However, the applicable authorities, including the FDA and the USPTO in the United States, and any equivalent regulatory authority in other countries, may not agree with our assessment of whether such extensions are available, and may refuse to grant extensions to our patents, or may grant more limited extensions than we request. If this occurs, our competitors may be able to take advantage of our investment in development and clinical trials by referencing our clinical and preclinical data, and then may be able to launch their product earlier than might otherwise be the case.

 

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