Biogen Plc v Medeva Plc: HL 31 Oct 1996

The claim patented sought to protect a genetic molecule rather than a whole mouse namely that the molecule would, if inserted into a suitable host cell, cause the cell to make antigens of the Hepatitis B virus. A recombinant method of making the antigens of a hepatitis virus was patented with a priority date of 22 December 1978 but was conceded to have been obvious by 21 December 1979.
Held: The claim for a DNA patent was too broad; no new principle was shown, and other means were available of achieving the technical effect claimed. The question of whether an invention was obvious should be treated with appropriate respect by an appellate court, and specific findings of fact, even by the most meticulous judge, are inherently an incomplete statement of the impression which was made upon him by the primary evidence. Where the application of a legal standard such as negligence or obviousness involves no question of principle but is simply a matter of degree, an appellate court should be very cautious in differing from the judge’s evaluation. Disclosure must enable the invention to be performed to the full extent of the monopoly claimed.
Lord Hoffmann discussed a court of appeal reversing a decision of the first court: ‘The need for appellate caution in reversing the trial judge’s evaluation of the facts is based upon much more solid grounds than professional courtesy. It is because specific findings of fact, even by the most meticulous judge, are inherently an incomplete statement of the impression which was made upon him by the primary evidence. His express findings are always surrounded by a penumbra of imprecision as to emphasis, relative weight, minor qualifications and nuance (as Renan said, la verite est dans une nuance), of which time and language do not permit exact expression, but which may play an important part in the judge’s overall evaluation.’ and ‘Where the application of a legal standard such as negligence or obviousness involves no question of principle but is simply a matter of degree, an appellate court should be very cautious in differing from the judge’s evaluation.’


Lord Goff of Chieveley, Lord Browne-Wilkinson, Lord Mustill, Lord Slynn of Hadley, Lord Hoffmann


Times 01-Nov-1996, [1997] RPC 1, [1996] UKHL 18, (1997) 38 BMLR 149




Patents Act 1977 1(1) 72(1)


England and Wales


Appeal fromBiogen Inc v Medeva Plc CA 28-Nov-1994
The description in a patent application’s specification must be of an invention. . .
CitedAllmanna Svenska Electriska A/B v The Burntisland Shipbuilding Co Ltd 1952
The question whether an the invention was obvious was ‘a kind of jury question’. As such, an appellate court should be reluctant to disturb it. If it was so obvious, the patent was invalid. . .
CitedEdwards (Inspector of Taxes) v Bairstow HL 25-Jul-1955
The House was asked whether a particular transaction was ‘an adventure in the nature of trade’.
Held: Although the House accepted that this was ‘an inference of fact’, on the primary facts as found by the Commissioners ‘the true and only . .
CitedBenmax v Austin Motor Co Ltd HL 1955
Except for cases which are expressly limited to questions of law, an appellant is entitled to appeal from the Court of Session to the House against any finding, whether it be a finding of law, a finding of fact or a finding involving both law and . .
CitedAsahi Kasei Kogyo KK’s Application HL 1991
The House considered a case involving the issue of enablement of a particular peptide in a patent application.
Held: On the assumed facts that there had been a prior disclosure of the same invention neither the disclosed information nor common . .

Cited by:

CitedSeb SAa v Societe De’Longhi Spa CA 4-Jul-2003
The claimant’s action for patent infringement had been dismissed on the basis that the patent was invalid for obviousness.
Held: There was material before the judge on which he could properly conclude as he did on the presence of common . .
CitedAssicurazioni Generali Spa v Arab Insurance Group (BSC) CA 13-Nov-2002
Rehearing/Review – Little Difference on Appeal
The appellant asked the Court to reverse a decision on the facts reached in the lower court.
Held: The appeal failed (Majority decision). The court’s approach should be the same whether the case was dealt with as a rehearing or as a review. . .
CitedDesigners Guild Ltd v Russell Williams (Textiles) Ltd (Trading As Washington DC) HL 28-Nov-2000
Copyright Claim: Was it Copied, and How Much?
The claimant sought to enforce its copyright in artwork for a fabric design Ixia, saying the defendant’s design Marguerite infringed that copyright. Two issues faced the House. Just what had been copied and if any, then did this amount amount to the . .
CitedPiglowska v Piglowski HL 24-Jun-1999
No Presumption of House for both Parties
When looking to the needs of parties in a divorce, there is no presumption that both parties are to be left able to purchase alternative homes. The order of sub-clauses in the Act implies nothing as to their relative importance. Courts should be . .
CitedKirin-Amgen Inc and others v Hoechst Marion Roussel Limited and others etc HL 21-Oct-2004
The claims arose in connection with the validity and alleged infringement of a European Patent on erythropoietin (‘EPO’).
Held: ‘Construction is objective in the sense that it is concerned with what a reasonable person to whom the utterance . .
CitedHoff and others v Atherton CA 19-Nov-2004
Appeals were made against pronouncements for the validity of a will and against the validity of an earlier will. The solicitor drawing the will was to receive a benefit, and had requested an independent solicitor to see the testatrix and ensure that . .
CitedMehdi Norowzian v Arks Ltd and Guinness Brewing Worldwide Limited (No 2) CA 11-Nov-1999
The claimant film artist showed a film to an advertising agency, who did not make use of it, but later appeared to use techniques and styles displayed in the film in subsequent material sold to third parties.
Held: A film was protected as a . .
CitedHarding v Wealands CA 17-Dec-2004
The claimant sought damages here for a road traffic accident which had occurred in Australia. The defendant was working in England. The defendant argued that the law of New South Wales applied.
Held: The general rule in section 11 was not to . .
CitedSherrington v Sherrington CA 22-Mar-2005
The deceased, a solicitor of long standing, was said to have signed his will without having read it, and had two witnesses sign the document without them knowing what they were attesting. He had remarried, and the will was challenged by his . .
CitedParker v Synder, Siddons, Price CA 1-Nov-2005
Application for leave to appeal, and to adduce further evidence. The claim alleged that the defendants had purchased his company for a nominal down payment, but then run the company down.
Held: The appeal against the refusal to admit new . .
CitedRobin Sharp and Malcolm Bryson v Grace Collin Adam and Emma Adam and others CA 28-Apr-2006
The testator suffered secondary progressive multiple sclerosis. It was said that he did not have testamentary capacity. He had lost the power of speech but communicated by a speech board. The solicitor had followed appropriate standards in attesting . .
AppliedAngiotech Pharmaceuticals and Another v Conor Medsystems Inc CA 16-Jan-2007
The appellants challenged a finding that their patent for a vascular stent failed for obviousness.
Held: To overcome a judge’s finding in such a case some error of principle had to be shown. No such error was shown and the appeal failed. . .
CitedPozzoli Spa v BDMO Sa and Another CA 22-Jun-2007
The patentee had invented a method for storing CDs. The patentee sought leave to appeal a finding that its patent was invalid, and if successful, to appeal a finding that the defendant’s apparatus was not infringing.
Held: The application for . .
CitedGaines-Cooper v HM Revenue and Customs ChD 13-Nov-2007
The parties disputed the domicile of the tax-payer. He had a domicile of origin in the UK, but asserted that he had acquired a domicile of choice in the Seychelles. The Special Commissioners had allowed, in assessing the domicile at any time, of . .
CitedSibley and Co v Reachbyte Ltd and Another ChD 4-Nov-2008
Solicitors appealed against a costs order made refusing them payment of all of Leading and Junior counsel’s fees.
Held: The leading counsel involved had not provided anything like a detailed account of the time he had spent on what was a . .
AppliedGenerics (UK) Ltd and others v H Lundbeck A/S (Costs) PatC 27-Jun-2007
The parties disputed the patentability of an anti-depressant drug Citalopram (Prozac).
Held: the claims were invalid for insufficiency. . .
CitedH Lundbeck A/S v Generics (UK) Ltd and others CA 10-Apr-2008
The court heard an appeal against a finding that a patent for a chemical compound was invalid for insufficiency.
Held: The appeal succeeded.
Enough information to ‘work the invention’ meant in order to make the product. . .
CitedGenerics (UK) Ltd and others v H Lundbeck A/S HL 25-Feb-2009
Patent properly granted
The House considered the patentability of a chemical product, citalopram made up of two enantiomers, as opposed to the process of its creation, questioning whether it could be new or was insufficient within the 1977 Act.
Held: The appeal . .
CitedCharania v Harbour Estates Ltd CA 27-Oct-2009
The defendant appealed against the award of the estate agent’s fees, acting under a sole agency agreement. The agreement had been terminated. A buyer who had seen the property first under the agency later returned and negotiated a purchase.
CitedCooper and Others v Fanmailuk.Com Ltd and Another CA 17-Dec-2009
F claimed to be the beneficial owner of shares registered in the names of the claimants. The appellants challenged a finding that the shares were held on trust for F, and the implication that the first appellant had presented a dishonest claim.
CitedLucasfilm Ltd and Others v Ainsworth and Another SC 27-Jul-2011
The claimant had produced the Star War films which made use of props, in particular a ‘Stormtrooper’ helmet designed by the defendant. The defendant had then himself distributed models of the designs he had created. The appellant obtained judgment . .
CitedRegeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc v Kymab Ltd SC 24-Jun-2020
SC Kymab Ltd (‘Kymab’) alleges that the relevant patents are invalid for insufficiency because they did not enable the ordinary skilled person to work the claimed invention across the breadth of the claims. The . .
CitedWarner-Lambert Company Llc v Generics (UK) Ltd (T/A Mylan) and Another SC 14-Nov-2018
These proceedings raise, for the first time in the courts of the United Kingdom, the question how the concepts of sufficiency and infringement are to be applied to a patent relating to a specified medical use of a known pharmaceutical compound. Four . .
CitedActavis Group PTC EHF and Others v ICOS Corporation and Another SC 27-Mar-2019
The court considered: ‘the application of the test of obviousness under section 3 of the Patents Act 1977 to a dosage patent. In summary, a patent, whose validity is not challenged, identified a compound as an efficacious treatment but did not . .
CitedShanks v Unilever Plc and Others SC 23-Oct-2019
The claimant appealed from refusal of statutory compensation under the 1977 Act. He had invented a form of pump which was used by his employers, the respondents in the management of diabetes management.
Held: The appeal succeeded: ‘the correct . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Intellectual Property, Litigation Practice

Leading Case

Updated: 24 April 2022; Ref: scu.78407