Methods of medical treatment held patent eligible

Australia’s highest court has recently confirmed that patents are available for the broad grounds of methods of medical treatment.

In Apotex Pty Ltd v Sanofi-Aventis Australia Pty Ltd, Sanofi had been granted a patent for a new use of a known medical compound leflumonide. The new use was in the treatment of a variant of psoriasis.

The patent was attacked on the basis that it was for a method of medical treatment. The court rejected the attack and held that an expansive view should be taken of our Patents Act. The method of medical treatment by utilisation of a compound should be patent eligible.

Whilst the court accepted that the finding would likely liberalise the granting of patents in this area, it considered any restrictions were best left to the legislature. It did however consider that activities or procedures of doctors and medical staff when physically treating patents were still unlikely to be patent eligible.

It is likely that Patent Office will now adopt a broad approach to this area.

This article was first published in Managing Intellectual Property magazine, 29 January 2014.