In support of their motion, defendants argue that the patent on the Plax(R) formula, United States Patent No. 5,338,538 (the "'538 patent"), is invalid under a statutory bar that prohibits an inventor from patenting an invention that was "on sale" or "in public use" one year before the application for the patent was filed. See 35 U.S.C. § 102(b). Perrigo argues that an in-home taste test conducted by Pfizer in May-June 1992 constituted a public use occurring more than one year before the application for the patent at issue in this suit was filed.
Pfizer opposes the motion on two grounds. First, although the application that matured into the '538 patent was filed on June 18, 1993, Pfizer seeks to rely on an earlier application. An earlier application was submitted on behalf of Pfizer on July 31, 1991 and a second application was filed on June 10, 1992 (the "June 10, 1992 application" or the "parent application"). Pfizer argues that the '538 patent is entitled to the June 10, 1992 filing date of the parent application under 35 U.S.C. § 120. Second, Pfizer argues that the in-home taste test was not a public use within the meaning of the statute.
1. Summary Judgment Standard
Summary judgment may be granted when "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and . . . the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c); see Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 585-87, 89 L. Ed. 2d 538, 106 S. Ct. 1348 (1986). Accordingly, the Court's task is not to "weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202, 106 S. Ct. 2505 (1986). To create an issue for trial, there must be sufficient evidence in the record favoring the party opposing the motion such that a reasonable jury could find in that party's favor. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-50.
2. Burden of Proving Invalidity of Patent
Under 35 U.S.C. § 282, patents are presumed valid and the party challenging the patent bears the burden of establishing invalidity of the patent or of a particular claim of the patent. 35 U.S.C. § 282; see Philip v. Mayer, Rothkopf Indus., Inc., 635 F.2d 1056, 1060 (2d Cir. 1980); see also Ralston Purina Co. v. Far-Mar-Co, Inc., 772 F.2d 1570, 1573 (Fed. Cir. 1985); accord Therma-Tru Corp. v. Peachtree Doors Inc., 44 F.3d 988, 992 (Fed. Cir. 1995) (citation omitted). The party disputing a patent's validity must prove invalidity by clear and convincing evidence. Ralston Purina, 772 F.2d at 1574 (citations omitted).
Perrigo argues that the '538 patent is invalid under 35 U.S.C. § 102(b) because the product was in public use more than one year before the application for the patent was filed. Under section 102(b), "A person shall be entitled to a patent unless . . . the invention was . . . in public use or on sale in this country, more than one year prior to the date of the application for patent in the United States . . . ." 35 U.S.C. § 102(b).
Pfizer argues that the '538 patent is entitled to the filing date of the parent application, June 10, 1992, under 35 U.S.C. § 120, which provides that a patent application will be deemed filed on the date that an earlier application was filed if certain requirements are satisfied.
3. Effective Date of Application for the '538 Patent
Section 120, entitled "Benefit of earlier filing date in the United States," provides that:
An application for patent for an invention disclosed in the manner provided by the first paragraph of section 112 of this title in an application previously filed in the United States . . . which is filed by an inventor or inventors named in the previously filed application shall have the same effect, as to such invention, as though filed on the date of the prior application, if filed before the patenting or abandonment of or termination of proceedings on the first application or on an application similarly entitled to the benefit of the filing date of the first application and if it contains or is amended to contain a specific reference to the earlier filed application.