Dana-Farber Cancer Institute v. Ono Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd., No. 19-2050 (Fed. Cir. 2020)Annotate this Case
Each patent at issue claims a method of treating cancer by administering antibodies targeting specific receptor-ligand interactions on T cells, which are responsible for processing information to develop an immune response in the body using receptors on their surfaces. The named inventor Dr. Honjo, a professor at Kyoto University, had shared information with Drs. Wood and Freeman until about 2001. In 2002, Honjo filed his patent application in Japan. Each patent at issue case claims priority from that patent application; none include Freeman and Wood as inventors.
The Federal Circuit affirmed that Drs. Freeman and Wood should be deemed inventors of the subject matter of the patents alongside Dr. Honjo, 35 U.S.C. 116(a). The inventorship of a complex invention may depend on partial contributions to conception over time, and there is no principled reason to discount genuine contributions made by collaborators because portions of that work were published prior to conception for the benefit of the public. Earlier publication of an invention is obviously a potential hazard to patentability, but the publication of a portion of a complex invention does not necessarily defeat joint inventorship of that invention.