UW-Madison inches up from 7th to 6th place in world race for patents

Karen Herzog , Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

With 168 patents issued last year, the University of Wisconsin-Madison moved back into sixth place among 100 universities surveyed around the world last year, according to a news release from the school.

UW inched up from seventh place among the Top 100 Worldwide Universities for U.S. utility patents granted in 2016. It had been in sixth place a couple of years ago.

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Q&A: How WARF Plans to Stay Relevant in Lean Times for Tech Transfer

Angela Shah

Quick, name one of the oldest—if not the oldest—university tech transfer institutions in the country.

If your brain automatically took you to a spot in New England or sunny California, think again. It’s the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, or WARF, which was founded nearly 90 years ago in 1925.

What would become WARF started when Harry Steenbock, a University of Wisconsin biochemistry professor, discovered a way to increase the vitamin D content of food, which could eliminate rickets, a crippling bone disease in children caused by a deficiency in that vitamin. Quaker Oats offered him $900,000—worth almost $12 million today—for the rights to his invention.

But Steenbock believed that the university should benefit from research he had conducted there. And so, he began to petition regents to set up a foundation composed of alumni that would manage patents from university research, and license the inventions to people in the business world who could make them into useful, profitable products. Any royalty income from the products would flow back to the foundation, and be put back into additional UW research, creating what WARF founders envisioned would be a virtuous cycle.

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Groups attack Wisconsin Alumni Foundation's embryonic stem cell patent

By Kathleen Gallagher of the Journal Sentinel

Two nonprofit groups are continuing their challenge to one of the Wisconsin Alumni Foundation's key embryonic stem cell patents by asking a federal appeals court to invalidate it.

The Public Patent Foundation, based in New York, and Consumer Watchdog, Santa Monica, Calif., filed a brief Tuesday with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. The Public Patent Foundation was one of the successful challengers in the recently decided case in which the Supreme Court ruled that genes cannot be patented.

"WARF's broad patent on all human embryonic stem cells is invalid for a number of reasons and we are confident the Court of Appeals will agree," said Dan Ravicher, the foundation's executive director. The groups believe that all researchers should have unfettered access to embryonic stem cells, which scientists believe could help treat many diseases.

A WARF spokeswoman declined to comment, saying the foundation needed to review the filing with its attorneys.

Full story.

 

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You Don't "Own" Your Own Genes

RESEARCHERS RAISE ALARM ABOUT LOSS OF INDIVIDUAL "GENOMIC LIBERTY" DUE TO GENE PATENTS THAT MAY IMPACT THE ERA OF PERSONALIZED MEDICINE

NEW YORK (March 25, 2013) — Humans don't "own" their own genes, the cellular chemicals that define who they are and what diseases they might be at risk for. Through more than 40,000 patents on DNA molecules, companies have essentially claimed the entire human genome for profit, report two researchers who analyzed the patents on human DNA. Their study, published March 25 in the journal Genome Medicine, raises an alarm about the loss of individual "genomic liberty."

In their new analysis, the research team examined two types of patented DNA sequences: long and short fragments. They discovered that 41 percent of the human genome is covered by longer DNA patents that often cover whole genes. They also found that, because many genes share similar sequences within their genetic structure, if all of the "short sequence" patents were allowed in aggregate, they could account for 100 percent of the genome.

Furthermore, the study's lead author, Dr. Christopher E. Mason of Weill Cornell Medical College, and the study's co-author, Dr. Jeffrey Rosenfeld, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Medicine & Dentistry of New Jersey and a member of the High Performance and Research Computing Group, found that short sequences from patents also cover virtually the entire genome — even outside of genes.

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Seed-patent case in Supreme Court: Loss of patent control could rekindle ‘terminator’ technology.

Heidi Ledford

A technology called a ‘terminator’ was never going to curry much favour with the public. But even Monsanto, the agricultural biotechnology giant in St Louis, Missouri, was surprised by the furore that followed when it patented a method for engineering transgenic crops to produce sterile seed, forcing farmers to buy new seed for each planting. In 1999, Monsanto’s chief executive pledged not to commercialize terminator seeds.

The concept, if not the technology, is now gaining traction again. This week, the US Supreme Court hears arguments that pit Monsanto against 75-year-old Indiana soya-bean farmer Vernon Hugh Bowman, who used the progeny of Monsanto seeds to sow his land for eight seasons. The company says that by not buying seeds for each generation, Bowman violated its patents. If Bowman wins — and observers say that is not out of the question — the decision could make it harder for biotech firms to enforce patents on engineered organisms, from seeds to microbes, prompting them to revisit terminator-like technology.

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Nanotech patent jungle set to become denser in 2013

17 January 2013

Simon Hadlington

As we welcome in 2013, will nanotechnology continue to dominate many of the scientific headlines in the coming year, just as it has done over the past decade? The huge activity across nanotechnology in recent years, reflected in an ever-increasing number of patents, suggests that it will.

In 2012 the US patent office published some 4000 patents under its class ‘977 – nanotechnology’. This was a record, up from 3439 the previous year, 2770 in 2010 and 1449 in 2009.

Do these figures herald an exciting dawn of technological innovation based around components measured at the atomic and molecular scale? Emphatically not and on the contrary, argues Joshua Pearce, who runs the Open Sustainability Technology lab at Michigan Technological University in the US. The problem is that in the rush to patent potentially lucrative new discoveries, a forest of broad and overlapping patents have been filed around the world by commercial and academic researchers. If someone wishes to develop a new product that uses single-walled carbon nanotubes, for example, there is a dense ‘thicket’ of hundreds of patents to be negotiated.

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Biofuels patent marks milestone for Madison research hub

By Thomas Content of the Journal Sentinel

C5-6 Technologies of Middleton and the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center in Madison are celebrating a milestone - the awarding of the first patent from the center's next-generation biofuels research.

The patent covers research into a heat-resistant enzyme that is well suited to break down the sugars contained inside the cells of plants.

C5-6 is the renewable fuels arm of the Middleton biotech firm Lucigen. The Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center was founded in 2007 as one of three national centers created by the U.S. Department of Energy to focus on research and development for bioenergy. The center was awarded $125 million over five years.

"It's a good technology and, as much as anything, it makes an important milestone in terms of the center," said David Pluymers, the center's intellectual property manager. "We've been at this for about 4½ years now. We went through a start-up phase and moved to a point where our labs really got rolling."

The Madison center's mission is to find and develop breakthrough technologies that can enable transportation fuels to be made affordably from plants that aren't also food sources. Examples of these nonfood biofuel sources, known as cellulosic biomass, include the corn stalks and switch grass.

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EU bans patents of stem cells if embryo destroyed

AFP - Europe's top court on Tuesday banned researchers from patenting any process to extract stem cells when it leads to the destruction of a human embryo.

In a ruling that could affect medical research, the EU Court of Justice court said the use of human embryos "for therapeutic or diagnostic purposes which are applied to the human embryo and are useful to it is patentable."

"But their use for purposes of scientific research is not patentable," the court ruled.

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Mining Patent Gold: What Every CEO Should Know

By Marshall Phelps and John Cronin

In the weeks since Google acquired Motorola Mobility and its 17,000 patents for $12.5 billion, the media has engaged in an orgy of hand-wringing over a supposedly broken patent system that diverts resources away from innovation and towards litigation instead.

Ignore the histrionics. What the Google-Motorola deal actually proves is that innovation—and its embodiment in intellectual property—is more valuable and necessary than ever for market success. What’s more, patents are no longer simply akin to mining claims that give one the exclusive right to pan for gold. In many cases, patents are the gold itself.

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Patent reform OK'd; critics say it impedes start-ups

By John Schmid of the Journal Sentinel

As the nation's economy struggles to reduce persistent unemployment and avert a double-dip recession, the Senate on Thursday passed a sweeping overhaul of the American patent system that supporters touted as essential to job-creation but that critics decried as a strike against innovation and a sellout to big business.

"My prediction is that fewer new companies will be started and many universities will find it too expensive to patent technologies arising from their research," said Carl Gulbrandsen, managing director of the patent licensing arm of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation.

The view in Washington was diametrically different: The Senate overwhelmingly approved the America Invents Act by a vote of 89-9, making it a rare piece of major economic legislation to achieve bipartisan support.

The bill, already passed by the House, was to be sent immediately to President Barack Obama, who has been a strong supporter.

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Patent Reform Passage Likely Today

The Senate has scheduled to vote on final passage of H.R. 1249 for 4 p.m. (ET) today.

A handful of amendments to the bill have been proposed. However, none of them are likely to be approved.

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Congress deals setback to patent office

By John Schmid of the Journal Sentinel

Congress has dealt a renewed blow to America's inventors and innovators by stripping another $100 million from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, an agency incapacitated by two decades of raids on the fees it collects.

Legislators siphoned the funds as part of the emergency spending bill drafted hastily to avert a shutdown of the government this month. The stopgap measure, which President Barack Obama signed into law Friday, cuts federal spending by $38 billion and quietly offset a fraction of that amount by draining more than $100 million in fee income from the patent office.

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Quincy Bioscience awarded patent on jellyfish protein

By Kathleen Gallagher of the Journal Sentinel

Posted: July 8, 2010 9:10 a.m.

Quincy Bioscience said it has received a patent on its use of a protein derived from jellyfish that it uses for products to fight the aging process.

The patent covers the use of aequorin-related compounds for preventing and alleviating symptoms and disorders related to calcium imbalance, Mark Underwood, the Madison biotech company's president, said in a statement.

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WARF loses a round in stem cell patent dispute

By Kathleen Gallagher of the Journal Sentinel

The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation has suffered a blow in its effort to protect a key patent for embryonic stem cell technology.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office last week reversed an earlier decision in which it rejected an appeal on one of three basic human embryonic stem cell patents held by the foundation, known as WARF.

The patent in question covers early work done by University of Wisconsin - Madison stem cell pioneer James Thomson. The patent office said it now agrees with the argument made by two foundations that Thomson's work covered by the single patent could have been performed by other scientists with access to the same resources.

The rejection does not affect a decision the patent office made in early 2008 to uphold two other basic embryonic stem cell patents held by WARF.

"WARF has been invited by the Board of Patent Appeals to continue prosecution of this application and plans to do so and vigorously pursue these claims with the patent office," the foundation said in a statement.

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Congress deals funding blow to Patent Office

Budget strips $100 million provision for backlogged agency

By John Schmid of the Journal Sentinel

Posted: Dec. 29, 2009

The $1.1 trillion spending bill that Congress passed this month bankrolls thousands of pet projects: the World Food Prize in Iowa, a farmers market in Kentucky, and a 12-mile bike path in Michigan, among many others.

And to pay for a fraction of its largesse, Congress added one late change to the budget: It slapped a restrictive spending ceiling on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, further cramping an agency that was already incapacitated by more than a decade of congressional raids on its fees. 

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Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation settles suit against Intel

Madison — The University of Wisconsin-Madison's patenting arm has settled its infringement lawsuit against computer chipmaker Intel Corp. involving technology used in a popular computer processor.

The case was expected to go to trial Monday in U.S. District Court in Madison, but both sides notified the court Friday they had reached a settlement. Details were not released, and Intel spokesman Chuck Mulloy said he could not comment because the terms were confidential.

The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation sued Santa Clara, Calif.-based Intel in February 2008, alleging that technology used in Intel's Core 2 Duo Processor and others was created by university researchers but used by Intel without a licensing agreement.

The lawsuit claimed the micro-architecture of the Intel Core family of processors infringed on a 1998 patent based on work by four researchers, including Gurindar Sohi, a computer science professor. Intel had supported Sohi's research with about $90,000 in gifts in the 1990s and argued it was entitled to the intellectual property that resulted from the funding.

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Patent backlog clogs recovery

Agency’s inability to keep pace undermines American innovation, competitiveness

First of two parts

Alexandria, Va. — On a campus of boxy office buildings nine miles outside Washington, D.C., some 6,300 patent examiners hold the nation's economic future in their hands.

The next Google. The next iPhone. The next Viagra.

All could be fueled by inventions awaiting the 20 years of protection afforded by a U.S. patent - if only the patent examiners could catch up.

But they can't. The federal system of granting patents to businesses and entrepreneurs has become overwhelmed by the growing volume and complexity of the applications it receives, creating a massive backlog that by its own reckoning could take at least six years to get under control, the Journal Sentinel has found.

Amid the worst downturn since the Great Depression, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office could be seen as a way to jump-start the economy. Instead, it sits on applications for years, placing inventors at risk of losing their ideas to savvy competitors at home and abroad.

The agency took 3.5 years, on average, for each patent it issued in 2008, a Journal Sentinel analysis of patent data shows. That's more than twice the agency's benchmark of 18 months to deal with a patent request.

The total number of applications waiting for approval, more than 1.2 million, nearly tripled from 10 years earlier.

The Journal Sentinel also found:

• Under a practice that Congress authorized a decade ago, the Patent Office publishes applications on its Web site 18 months after the inventor files them, outlining each innovation in detail regardless of whether an examiner has begun considering the application. The system invites competitors anywhere in the world to steal ideas.

• For more than a dozen years starting in 1992, Congress siphoned off a total of $752 million in fees from the Patent Office to pay for unrelated federal projects, decimating the agency's ability to hire and train new examiners.

• As its backlog grew, the Patent Office began rejecting applications at an unprecedented pace. Where seven of 10 applications led to patents less than a decade ago, fewer than half are approved today - a shift that a federal appeals judge termed "suspicious." The same judge calls the agency "practically dysfunctional."

• Staff turnover has become epidemic. Experts say it takes at least three years for a patent examiner to gain competence, and yet one examiner has been quitting on average for every two the agency hires.

• Patent activity, a widely accepted barometer of innovation, is showing exponential growth in increasingly competitive economies such as China, South Korea and India. As developing economies strive to commercialize and protect their technologies throughout the world, they add tremendously to the U.S. Patent Office's workload.

• In many cases, applications languish so long that the technology they seek to protect becomes obsolete, or a product loses the interest of investors who could give it a chance at commercial success. "Patents are becoming commercially irrelevant to product life cycles," said John White, a patent attorney and former examiner.

For an American start-up company, a patent application is often the only asset, which creates a Catch-22: Start-ups often need a patent in order to get funding; yet without that funding, entrepreneurs can't afford the mounting fees and legal costs to keep the patent application alive or to fend off infringers.

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UW has no right to portion of surgeon's huge royalty payments

Todd Finkelmeyer  —  1/21/2009 1:50 pm

University of Wisconsin-Madison orthopedic surgeon and researcher Dr. Thomas Zdeblick has received millions of dollars in royalty payments from a medical device company for a variety of spinal implants he helped invent, according to an investigation recently made public by Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa.

But a review by The Capital Times finds that the university has no legal right to share in Zdeblick's  windfall. University policy only requires its researchers to patent inventions through the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation if their discoveries are funded with federal money.

"The policy at the university is you start with the presumption that faculty and staff own their own intellectual property," said Carl Gulbrandsen, managing director of WARF. "Then it becomes an issue of funding source. And if it's not federally funded research, they don't have to go through WARF. We try to be user-friendly and add value, but not everyone goes through us."

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MSOE completes first patent license

Illinois company given license to TetraLattice technology

By KATHLEEN GALLAGHER
kgallagher@journalsentinel.com
Posted: Sept. 22, 2008

Some universities knock on many doors to find companies to license their patents.

Milwaukee School of Engineering didn’t knock on even one. An Elgin, Ill., company found the Milwaukee university instead.

MSOE said Monday it has completed its first license for a patent.

The school’s rapid prototyping lab agreed to give an exclusive license for certain applications of its TetraLattice technology to DSM Somos, a subsidiary of DSM Desotech Inc.

“I’m not out marketing; they came to us. They know us because our reputation in rapid prototyping is quite wide,” said Tom Bray, MSOE’s dean of applied research.

The school’s TetraLattice technology can take computer drawings and create complex, three-dimensional structures with interiors made of sturdy lattices rather than solid material.

Watching the technology work is like watching an object appear to rise out of liquid, Bray said.

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U.S. Patent Office Issues Certificates to Uphold WARF Stem Cell Patents (Jun 26, 2008)

 June 26, 2008
Contact: Janet Kelly (608 )890-1491, jkelly@warf.org

U.S. Patent Office Issues Certificates to Uphold WARF Stem Cell Patents
Action Concludes Reexam for University of Wisconsin-Madison's Most Important Base Embryonic Stem Cell Discoveries

Madison, Wis. – The United States Patent and Trademark Office has issued Reexamination Certificates for the two most important base embryonic stem cell patents held by the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF). This action officially concludes a reexamination process for these patents that began in October 2006, and was decided in WARF's favor in March of this year.

The patent office issued certificates for patents ?780 and ?806, which date back more than a decade to the breakthrough discovery of the isolation and culture of primate and human embryonic stem cells made at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. This ruling is not appealable, which means that the claims of these patents stand confirmed and enforceable.

"We are extremely pleased that the patent office has officially concluded these reexaminations," states Carl Gulbrandsen, WARF managing director. "Due to the patent office's extremely thorough and detailed reexaminations, we feel our patents are stronger than ever and affirm that Dr. James Thomson's groundbreaking discoveries are patentable inventions."

Thomson, the renowned stem cell researcher and pioneer, is a professor of anatomy at the UW-Madison and recently was appointed director of regenerative biology at the Morgridge Institute for Research, part of the new Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery.

The challenge to the patents was brought by the New York-based Public Patent Foundation and the California-based Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights. A third patent, ?913, also was included in the challenge and was upheld earlier this year. However, as this more recently issued patent follows a slightly different process, it still is subject to appeal by the third-party requestor.

Gulbrandsen noted that patent protection is vital for attracting the significant private sector investment necessary to develop commercial applications for stem cells. "Human embryonic stem cells provide researchers powerful tools for testing drugs at the cellular level, which may lead to astonishing advances in pharmaceutical development, particularly in the field of personalized medicine, and reduce reliance on animal testing. They also have the potential to offer new treatments and cures for devastating diseases such as diabetes, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and spinal cord injuries that afflict millions of people around the world," he states.

"But, it takes millions upon millions of dollars to develop and bring new medical discoveries to market, and without patents to protect their investments and the opportunity to generate profits, companies will not commit resources to the lengthy and costly development and clinical trials process."

Since the announcement that its patents were upheld, WARF has seen increased interest in licensing its stem cell technologies. It currently has completed 30 license agreements with 25 companies, including an agreement just signed with Invitrogen Corporation last month. Gulbrandsen notes that any revenues WARF earns from licensing these and other technologies to companies is used to support further research at the UW-Madison.

In addition, WARF continues to support the distribution of cell lines and methodologies for isolating and culturing human embryonic stem cells to researchers through its affiliate, the nonprofit WiCell Research Institute. WiCell, which hosts the National Stem Cell Bank, has fulfilled more than 900 free academic licenses for patent rights to stem cells and has shipped cells to more than 500 researchers in 25 countries and 40 states.

Academic scientists using these cell lines and methodologies face no restrictions on patenting or publishing their own novel work. Currently, two vials containing approximately six million stem cell that are capable of establishing multiple new colonies are priced for academic researchers at $500.

WARF was established as the world's first university-based technology transfer office in 1925. As a private, nonprofit foundation, it supports world class research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison by funding research, protecting the intellectual property of the university faculty, staff and students and by licensing inventions resulting from their work to benefit humankind.

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Two UW stem-cell patents upheld

By David Wahlberg

The federal government has upheld two more UW-Madison stem-cell patents, meaning all three patents under contention can stand.

But expected appeals on one of the patents could linger for years. And the government review caused the university to narrow some patent claims and loosen its licensing policies, the patent challengers say.

The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, UW-Madison 's tech-transfer organization, holds the patents, based on work by campus stem-cell pioneer James Thomson. The patents essentially cover all human embryonic stem-cell research in the country.

WARF, which has earned more than $3.2 million from patents, stands to gain many millions more. Scientists are using the cells to better understand and develop possible treatments for diabetes, Parkinson 's disease and other conditions.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office 's decision to uphold the two patents, announced Tuesday, was made last week. The patent office upheld the third patent last month.

"This is a home run, " said Carl Gulbrandsen, managing director of WARF. "I said from the beginning that we feel they were patentable inventions and that we would ultimately prevail. "

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Congressional Budget Office: Patent bill cost exceeds expected revenue

Legislation making sweeping changes in patent law that is slated for Senate debate in the coming weeks would increase federal spending by $26.9 billion and boost revenue by $25.5 billion over a nine-year period beginning in 2009, according to a CBO analysis released late last week.

The legislation sponsored by Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., would alter the rule that prioritizes the award of a patent from the "first to invent" to the first inventor to file; increase the Patent and Trademark Office's authority to collect and spend fees; and institute a number of litigation-related changes. A sizable shift on the federal balance sheet would result from language to make permanent the PTO's authority over money collected from patent and trademark applications, CBO said. Compliance costs could be $200 million annually starting in 2009, with most of the financial burden falling on the private sector, officials said.

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WARF stem cell patent claim upheld by patent office

Bill Novak

The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation has won a key patent battle for one of its stem cell patents, after the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office upheld the foundation's claim to the patent.

The decision affirms WARF's contention that an initial UW-Madison human embryonic stem cell discovery is a patentable invention.

The decision was announced in a press release this morning from WARF.

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UW accuses Intel in federal lawsuit

Research arm alleges patent violation

By PAUL GORES

Intel Corp.'s popular Core 2 Duo processor, the brain of many of today's personal computers, includes technology created by University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers, according to a federal lawsuit accusing Intel of patent infringement.

The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, the university's licensing arm, claims that while its application for a patent on the technology was pending, one of its inventors met with Intel and offered to discuss licensing it for use in future Intel products.

But instead of discussing licensing, Intel incorporated the patented technology into its products, including the Core 2 Duo processor, the research foundation's lawsuit says. Intel refuses to obtain a license from the research foundation, the lawsuit contends,

The lawsuit characterizes the technology, which improves computer efficiency and speed, as "a pioneering invention that has been widely recognized as a significant advance in computer microprocessing both by researchers in the field and those in industry."

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Supreme Court: Farmers can't use seed from patented crops

The company has sued more than 100 farmers for using seed from previous year's crops.

By CHRISTOPHER S. RUGABER
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court on Monday let stand, without comment, a lower court ruling that punished a Mississippi farmer for re-using Monsanto Co.’s patented, genetically modified soybeans.

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UWM to go solo in tech

UW Board of Regents OKs move to its own patenting, licensing, spin-offs

By KATHLEEN GALLAGHER
kgallagher@journalsentinel.com
Posted: July 17, 2007

The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee has won approval to go it alone when it comes to patenting, licensing and spinning off companies from campus inventions and discoveries.

Armed with a huge desire to increase its relatively small research effort, and strong support from UW System President Kevin Reilly, the school asked the UW System Board of Regents for permission to break away from a systemwide tech transfer program and manage its own intellectual property.

The regents unanimously approved the request at a regularly scheduled meeting on Friday.

The decision gives UWM the freedom to take on the difficult task of building a technology transfer office, and separates it from the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, or WARF, a tech transfer powerhouse.

It also means the loss of the biggest consumer of services for WiSys Technology.

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Scientists attack UW patents

By DAVID WAHLBERG
608-252-6125

Challengers to UW-Madison's stem-cell patents have enlisted some high-profile scientists to argue that the federal government's preliminary rejection of the patents should be upheld.

Doug Melton, a co-director of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute, said in a declaration released Monday that UW-Madison scientist James Thomson achieved his stem-cell discoveries in 1998 because of his access to money and materials, not because of ground-breaking science.

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Scientist attempts to patent building blocks of life

Plans to create first artificial living being

Kelly Patterson, Ottawa Citizen; CanWest News Service

Published: Saturday, June 09, 2007

A leading U.S. scientist has applied to patent the world's first man-made life form.

Hailed as the biggest, most controversial genetics breakthrough since the cloning of Dolly the sheep, Dr. Craig Venter -- the scientist who led the private-sector race to map the human genome -- says his research team has figured out which genes provide the bare essentials for life. Now he wants the commercial rights to their use.

Venter plans to cobble together synthetic versions of these genes to create the world's first artificial living being, a bacterium called mycoplasma laboratorium which could then be programmed to convert sunlight into eco-friendly fuels such as hydrogen or ethanol.

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WARF questions relevancy of documents used to uphold patent challenge

By Joe Vanden Plas • 05/31/07

Madison, Wis. - Claiming that patents and publications used to uphold a challenge to its stem cell patents are irrelevant to the isolation and proliferation of human embryonic stem cells, the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation has filed a response refuting an initial determination by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Those observations on relevancy, made by Carl Gulbrandsen, managing director of WARF, were supported by Dr. Colin Stewart, a stem cell researcher at the Institute of Medical Biology in Singapore.

Stewart submitted a declaration in support of the patents, emphasizing the differences between mouse stem cells, which were prominent in the PTO's rejections, and the human embryonic stem cells that were isolated and characterized by University of Wisconsin-Madison researcher Jamie Thomson.

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Ruling could aid challenge to UW stem cell patents

Supreme Court affirms basis of patent objection

By KATHLEEN GALLAGHER
kgallagher@journalsentinel.com Posted: May 1, 2007

A Supreme Court ruling this week could make it more difficult for a Wisconsin foundation to defend key embryonic stem cell patents against challenges by two groups, some patent experts and representatives of those groups said Tuesday.

The groups have argued that three fundamental patents the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation holds are based on research that would have been obvious to anyone familiar with literature in the field. University of Wisconsin-Madison scientist James Thomson in 1998 was the first to isolate human embryonic stem cells.

The court decision Monday has been widely viewed as one that will make it harder to get patents and defend existing ones. The court said Teleflex Inc. was not entitled to a patent on an automobile brake it developed by combining ideas from two existing patents because joining the concepts was obvious.

"We thought what James Thomson did was obvious when we filed the challenges, so this would, if anything, enhance our case," said John M. Simpson, stem cell project director at the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, a consumer watchdog group in Santa Monica, Calif. The other group that in July requested the re-examination of WARF's patents is the Public Patent Foundation, a New York group that targets the patent system.

The U.S. Patent Office last month issued a preliminary rejection of the three WARF patents. Only about 12% of all patents are canceled, the office has said.

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UW patents jeopardized

DAVID WAHLBERG 608-252-6125

The federal government has preliminarily rejected three controversial stem-cell patents held by UW-Madison, saying discoveries by researcher James Thomson were "obvious to one of ordinary skill."

 

The decision could greatly affect the university's prominence in the burgeoning field and stop the millions of dollars the patents are bringing in.

Critics of the patents, who say they stifle research, said the decision will likely kill the patents. But UW-Madison officials said they will appeal, a process that could take months or years. During that time, the patents will remain active.

"Although these patents aren't dead, they have been diagnosed with severe cancer," said Dan Ravicher, executive director of the New York-based Public Patent Foundation. "The chilling effect caused by (UW- Madison's) aggressive pursuit of these patents could be over and people could be free to do research."

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Idle Patents Attract Entrepreneurs


Updated: 3/19/2007

MILWAUKEE

Dilip Kotecha figured his working days were over when he retired from the food-manufacturing industry. But after an unused patent for instant yogurt landed in his lap, he couldn't resist turning the dormant technology into a business.

 

''I would say our company wouldn't even be there without that patent,'' the 59-year-old entrepreneur said.

 

Countless patents — including the one used to start up Kotecha's company, Yokit — sit unused when companies decide not to develop them into products. Now, not-for-profit groups and state governments are asking companies to donate dormant patents so they can be passed to local entrepreneurs who try to build businesses out of them.

 

Kotecha's patent covered the formulation of instant yogurt. Consumer-products company SC Johnson of Racine, Wis., was awarded it in 1984 but tabled its plans.

 

Instead of gathering dust, the donated patent spawned a startup that Kotecha hopes will revolutionize the vending-machine industry and provide snacks to troops overseas.

 

There are countless other patents that are promising but sitting idle, business developers say.

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European patent on stem cells may be a possibility

As long as the research meets the usual requirements for a patent, isolated embryonic stem cells should be considered for both method and product patents.

This conclusion, which runs counter to the views of the European Group on Ethics under the European Commission, was reached by an interdisciplinary group at the Center for Bioethics at the Karolinska Institute and Uppsala University in an academic article in the international journal Stem Cells.

The article is the result of a unique collaborative effort involving ethics researchers Mats G. Hansson and Gert Helgesson at the Center for Bioethics, Richard Wessman at the Department of Law, Uppsala University, and one of the world's leading stem cell researchers, Rudolf Jaenisch at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

"Our conclusion is that, in principle, stem cells can be patentable and that this is consonant with ethical views that the human embryo should enjoy special protection owing to its capacity to develop into a human being. This will be of interest to a great many people," says Professor Mats G. Hansson.

Research on embryonic and adult stem cells may yield new possibilities for treating and curing diseases. At the same time, it is ethically controversial, especially the use of stem cells from human embryos. The possibility of patenting these cells has been excluded by several instances, including several European patent authorities and the European Commission's European Group on Ethics (EGE). According to the EGE, only genetically altered stem cells or cells that have been further developed into certain bodily parts can be eligible for patents. In several European countries patents for stem cells are out of the question, and the European Patent Organization, like various national patent offices, has a wait-and-see policy.

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Lockheed Martin to patent quantum radar

Quantum computers are still a long way away, even though the basics have been resolved and already work in the lab. But up to now, "entanglement" has only worked with a few qubits. No information is transmitted between entangled, but spatially separated photons in the classic sense of the term; rather, the photons form a pair, with the polarisation of one, for instance, directly determining that of the other regardless of the distance between them.

Now, the Guardian of Britain is reporting that a patent filed by US defense firm Lockheed Martin at the European Patent Office (no. EP1750145) uses Einstein's "spooky action at a distance" for a radar system that allegedly overcomes the limits of conventional radar systems.

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Third Wave countersues rival Digene

The Business Journal of Milwaukee - 12:02 PM CST Thursday, March 1, 2007

Third Wave Technologies Inc. is countersuing a Maryland competitor accusing the rival of abusing its monopoly power in the human papillomavirus molecular testing products market.

Third Wave, of Madison, again defended its genetic testing product that detects the human papillomavirus (HPV), claiming it does not infringe on a patent from rival Digene Corp. Digene charged Third Wave of patent infringement in a lawsuit filed in January in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin in Madison.

Digene is seeking to prevent Third Wave from selling its products and is asking the court to declare its patent enforceable. It is also seeking damages from Third Wave.

In its counterclaim, Third Wave accuses Digene of abusing its monopoly power to thwart competition in the HPV testing market. The lawsuit was also filed in federal district court in Madison.

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18 Inventors Picked to Join Hall of Fame

By NATASHA T. METZLER

February 08, 2007

Inventors of the MRI, the Ethernet, the LP record and a popular weedkiller are among 18 people picked for induction into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

The 2007 class of inductees, announced Thursday, join luminaries such as Thomas Edison, Velcro inventor George de Mestral and Charles Goodyear, developer of vulcanized rubber.

'Some of these inventors ... have literally changed the way we live our lives,' said Rini Paiva, spokeswoman for the National Inventors Hall of Fame Foundation. But, she added, 'They are not household names.'

Among the latest inductees and their inventions are:

_Paul C. Lauterbur, for the MRI, or magnetic resonance imaging.

_Robert M. Metcalfe, for high-speed networking known as Ethernet.

_the late Peter C. Goldmark, for the long-playing record.

_John E. Franz, for the herbicide Roundup.


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Court Rules In Pfizer's Favor In Norvasc Patent Case, Finds Synthon Obtained Patent By Inequitable Conduct

NEW YORK, Jan. 31 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- The federal district court in the Eastern District of Virginia (Alexandria) has ruled that Synthon IP obtained, by inequitable conduct, two U.S. patents alleged to cover a process and an intermediate compound used to make the active ingredient in Pfizer's widely-prescribed hypertension medication, Norvasc, Pfizer said today.

Pfizer said the court found that Synthon had knowingly failed to disclose to the U.S. Patent Office Pfizer publications and other information it had in its possession that described the process Synthon sought to patent. "It's very difficult to meet the standards for establishing inequitable conduct," said Allen Waxman, Pfizer's general counsel. "But in this case it is clear that Synthon improperly used Pfizer's own published material to obtain a patent that it then tried to enforce against us."

Pfizer said it intends to seek attorneys' fees from Synthon. The case may be appealed.

Synthon had asserted that Pfizer's process for manufacturing Norvasc --a process Pfizer had not only published but has been using for 15 years --infringed Synthon patents issued in 2003 and 2005. In August of last year, a jury unanimously ruled that one of those patents was not infringed by Pfizer and was invalid on multiple grounds, principally because it was based on Pfizer's prior published work. Synthon had dropped its claim of infringement on the second patent prior to trial.

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Third Wave gains from patent fight

By Jeff Richgels
Third Wave Technologies Inc. today announced that it had reached an out-of-court settlement with Stratagene Corp. that includes a $10.75 million cash payment by Stratagene to Third Wave.


The settlement stems from Third Wave's win over Stratagene in a patent battle that began in 2004.

A federal court jury in Madison found in September 2005 that the California company infringed on two of Madison-based Third Wave's patents, awarding Third Wave $5.3 million. Judge Barbara Crabb later tripled the damages to $15.9 million in the case, which Stratagene was appealing.

Stratagene also has a separate lawsuit pending against Third Wave in Delaware.

Under terms of the settlement announced today, the two companies agreed to stay any further litigation for nine months, and to either seek dismissal without prejudice or an extension of the trial date for the Delaware lawsuit.

The companies also agreed to resolve that case or any other disputes by either arbitration or a royalty-bearing license.

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Innovators are urged to put on thinking caps to unsnarl U.S. red tape

12:00 AM CST on Thursday, January 11, 2007
By VICTOR GODINEZ / The Dallas Morning News

IBM garnered more patents than any other company in the U.S. last year – more, in fact, than any company has ever received in a single year.

The technology giant's Texas operations were responsible for 677 of those 3,621 patents, second only to IBM's headquarters in Armonk, N.Y.

Those Texas patents, almost all from Austin, covered a variety of products, including the sophisticated processor inside Sony's PlayStation 3 video game console.

But IBM wants to spread the wealth.

So along with the announcement that it has won the top patent spot for the 14th consecutive year, IBM is unveiling an online program today called the Inventor's Forum.

The forum will be a place where entrepreneurs and small-business owners can share ideas and proposals on how to improve the patenting process.

Marc Ehrlich, an attorney in IBM's patent portfolio management team, said that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is overwhelmed by patent applications, many of which should not be granted because they're too obvious, broad or not new.

Even when the bad applications are weeded out, it takes time to sift through them, he said.

According to the patent office, the agency reviewed 332,000 patent applications in fiscal 2006, the most it has ever examined.

But the agency actually received more than 440,000 applications in that time.

That backlog occurred despite hiring more than 1,200 new patent examiners, and the agency plans to hire 1,000 more every year for the next five years.

"Even so, the volume of applications will continue to outpace the agency's capacity to examine them," the agency said in a news release last month. The patent and trademark office "continues to look for ways, beyond hiring, to reduce the backlog while maintaining examination quality."

IBM hopes some of its proposals can help stem the flood.

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An Obvious Patent Law Fix?

An Obvious Patent Law Fix?
Matthew Swibel, 01.10.07, 6:00 AM ET

WASHINGTON, D.C. -
The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule soon on the narrow issue of whether an adjustable gas pedal with an electronic sensor that moves according to a driver's height is too “obvious" an invention to warrant patent protection.

But a trade group representing some of the nation's biggest patent holders, including Apple, Autodesk and Microsoft as well as IBM, have filed briefs urging the nation's top court to use the case as an opportunity to confront a broader problem in patent law: The standard for proving something is "obvious" has been set too high by the courts.

If the burden of proof for obviousness were lower, it would be easier to invalidate the glut of so-called junk patents that software, hardware and other technology companies view as threatening to the way they do business.

The big patent holders aren't parties to the actual case. It began after KSR International of Canada began supplying General Motors with adjustable gas pedals for its SUVs. Teleflex had patented a similar device in 2001 that was used in trucks produced by Ford Motor. So Teleflex demanded royalties from KSR. KSR refused, and the lawyers were off and billing.

A U.S. District judge in Detroit agreed with KSR that Teleflex's patent wasn't valid, because combining a sensor with an adjustable pedal was just too obvious. Meaning any old Joe in the field could have thought up the combination, and so Teleflex's innovation wasn't special enough to warrant a patent.

The U.S. Court of Appeals overturned that decision because KSR failed to establish that some "'suggestion, teaching or motivation'" would have led a person of ordinary skill" in the field of automotive pedal technology to combine a sensor and a pedal to create Teleflex's device.

Confused about what makes an idea too obvious to warrant a patent? So are the guys in the black robes. The obvious test "adds a layer of jargon that lawyers can then bandy back and forth," Chief Justice John Roberts complained during oral arguments in late November. "It seems to me that it's worse than meaningless, because it complicates the inquiry rather than focusing on the statute."

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U.S., Japan to simplify patent process, fight piracy

U.S., Japan to simplify patent process, fight piracy
Reuters
Monday, January 8, 2007; 5:34 PM

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States and Japan announced on Monday plans to harmonize their patent systems, streamline patent application processes and jointly fight piracy and counterfeiting.

Unveiling the plan in Washington, U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez and Japanese Trade Minister Akira Amari held up the program as a model to help economies based on innovation save time and money while boosting protection.

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Court Affirms $7 Million in Damages for Innogenetics in Patent Infringement Suit

Judge Denies Abbott Laboratories' Requests for New Trial

GENT, Belgium and MADISON, Wis., January 04, 2007 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Biotechnology Company Innogenetics announced today that a U.S. District Court judge for the Western District of Wisconsin affirmed a previously awarded $7 million damage verdict against Abbott Laboratories for infringing the company's HCV genotyping patent. In the same ruling the judge rejected Abbott's requests for a new trial on infringement and validity.

The January 3, 2007 order also granted Innogenetics' motion for prejudgment interest on the damage award and set a January 11 evidentiary hearing date to consider the company's request for a permanent injunction against Abbott's sale of infringing products. The judge's opinion vacated the jury's determination that Abbott willfully infringed Innogenetics' patent, and declined to award enhanced damages or attorneys fees.

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Nanotechnology hits a patent roadblock

PROCESSING APPLICATIONS TAKES NEARLY FOUR YEARS
By Jon Van
Chicago Tribune

CHICAGO - Just as it's getting traction spawning new companies and products, the hot nanotechnology sector is running into a roadblock at the U.S. Patent Office.

As the time it takes to process patent applications now averages almost four years, double the time it took in 2004, nanotech entrepreneurs are beginning to worry that their ability to raise money to develop products may be stifled.

``Clearly there's a danger,'' Stephen Maebius, a partner in the Foley & Lardner law firm, said of the patent application backlog. ``If you cross a threshold and it's taking too long, potential financial backers wonder if what you have is patentable or not.''

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UW technology transfer extends reach

UW technology transfer extends reach
Marshfield Clinic will be first non-university client
By KATHLEEN GALLAGHER
kgallagher@journalsentinel.com
Posted: Nov. 21, 2006

Marshfield Clinic said Monday that it will become the first organization outside of the state's public university system to use the system's technology transfer expertise to commercialize the work of researchers.

Marshfield has signed a contract with WiSys Technology Foundation Inc. that will give the clinic instant patenting and licensing expertise and encourage collaboration between Marshfield and state public research institutions.

"It literally just fast-forwards our development cycle for the technology transfer office overnight," said Robert A. Carlson, director of Marshfield Clinic Applied Sciences, which will oversee the agreement.

WiSys is a subsidiary of the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, one of the oldest and most successful university technology transfer organizations in the country. It is an arm of the University of Wisconsin system.

WARF, armed with a $1.6 billion endowment, does patenting and commercialization work for the University of Wisconsin-Madison, one of the biggest academic research institutions in the country with more than $750 million of annual research spending.

Marshfield has a much smaller effort with about $25 million of annual spending, about the size of that of UW-Milwaukee. The clinic has more than 700 physicians and is one of the largest private group medical practices in the U.S. - and it has specializations in important areas such as human genetics, agricultural health and safety and bioinformatics.

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Acid test production may allow NimbleGen to go public in 2007

Biotech company makes patent deal
Acid test production may allow NimbleGen to go public in 2007
By KATHLEEN GALLAGHER
kgallagher@journalsentinel.com
Posted: Oct. 6, 2006

A licensing deal struck by NimbleGen Systems Inc. may be a springboard for the Madison biotech company to go public in early 2007, the firm's chief executive said Friday.

NimbleGen, a maker of chips that identify how genes work, forged the agreement with Santa Clara, Calif.-based Affymetrix Inc. It holds promise to dramatically expand the market for NimbleGen's products and help speed the progress of genetic research overall, said Stanley D. Rose, NimbleGen's president and chief executive officer.

"If you look at comparable companies and values and prospects like ours, you could make a very good argument we'd be a good candidate for a very high-value IPO early in 2007," Rose said.

The agreement gives NimbleGen a license for several Affymetrix patents that cover the manufacture, use and sale of nucleic acid tests used for genetic research.

"This will give us an opportunity to rapidly accelerate our growth because it allows us to attack world markets with new products in new ways," said Bob Palay, NimbleGen's chairman and managing member of Tactics II Investments of Northbrook, Ill., one of the firm's investors.

NimbleGen's chips use 780,000 tiny mirrors, like those in a PowerPoint projector or a high-definition TV, to focus light in a way that allows scientists to see things like which part of a DNA strand is binding to an RNA strand. That's like giving a researcher 780,000 test tubes for their experiment, and the ability to quickly see things like which genes are activated, or which parts of a cancer cell's DNA are being amplified or deleted.

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With patents, Wisconsin court gaining reputation as a "rocket docket"

With patents, Wisconsin court gaining reputation as a "rocket docket"
Innogenetics victory over Abbott more than David vs. Goliath story
By Joe Vanden Plas • 10/02/06

Madison, Wis. - Patent law is esoteric territory, but a Madison court is taking some of the mystery out of it, and in the process it might be giving smaller drug companies a chance to defend their intellectual property against pharmaceutical Goliaths.

The most recent example occurred last month. After a relatively speedy trial that began in September of 2005, a jury in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin first confirmed the validity of a patent held by Belgian-based biopharmaceutical company Innogenetics, and then unanimously found Abbott Laboratories willfully infringed on the patent.

The patent covers a method of genotyping the Hepatitis C Virus, and to date Abbott has been directed to pay Innogenetics $7 million in infringement damages. Depending on a possible appeal and the judge's eventual ruling, that sum could triple because of the jury's determination that the violation was willful.

Compared to Abbott Labs, which reported more than $22 billion in sales and $3.4 billion in income last year, Innogenetics is like David, but it hardly is a Lilliputian. The company reported $48.6 million in revenue (European currency) in 2005.

Nevertheless, CEO Frank Morich characterized the outcome as a landmark victory for his company, and possibly for other innovators like it. "This win protects an important patent for us, and provides compensation for this major infringement," Morich said. "But perhaps just as importantly, it says that being a large, global company does not entitle you to willfully disregard intellectual property laws without consequence."

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Supreme Court hears biotech case that could expand patent lawsuits

Supreme Court hears biotech case that could expand patent lawsuits

WASHINGTON (AP) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday heard drug maker MedImmune's patent dispute with biotechnology company Genentech, a case that could help determine the ability companies have to challenge patents in court.

The companies are fighting over a Genentech patent that MedImmune licenses for one of its top sellers -- Synagis, a children's respiratory drug with more than $1 billion in sales last year.

The original patent was set to expire this year, making it available for free. But Genentech Inc. of California acquired another patent in 2001 through a deal with another drug company holding a similar patent, extending it to 2018.

The case before the court Wednesday didn't deal with the merits of the case, focusing instead on whether MedImmune had a right to dispute the new patent in court under federal laws.

MedImmune Inc. of Gaithersburg, Md., filed a lawsuit in 2003, claiming the deal between Genentech and British biotechnology company Celltech R&D Ltd. violated antitrust laws. But it was thrown out by the federal courts, which ruled MedImmune didn't have the right to sue because it continued to pay royalties on the patent even as it claimed in court the patent was unfair.

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Wisconsin stem cell patents to get review

Wisconsin stem cell patents to get review
By KATHLEEN GALLAGHER
kgallagher@journalsentinel.com
Posted: Oct. 3, 2006

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office will re-examine three key patents on embryonic stem cells held by the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation.

The patents are so broadly written that they give the foundation, known as WARF, potential to reap big royalties from any stem cell-related products.

The way WARF is handling the patents is harming scientific progress and California taxpayers, say the two foundations that in July asked for the re-exam. Californians voted in November to fund $3 billion of embryonic stem cell research in their state over the next 10 years

The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights in Santa Monica, Calif., and the Public Patent Foundation in New York are alleging that when University of Wisconsin-Madison researcher James Thomson isolated human embryonic stem cells in 1998, he wasn't the first to do it.

"We believe this is a politically and financially motivated challenge, to which we will respond in the appropriate legal forum," said Beth Donley, executive director of WiCell Research Institute, a WARF subsidiary, in a statement. WARF believes the patent office will affirm the patents' validity, she said.

No claim to fame

The foundations are saying Thomson's achievement wasn't novel, and was obvious, based on research others had done.

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UW is ninth in biotech patents

UW is ninth in biotech patents
MARV BALOUSEK mbalousek@madison.com 608-252-6135

The University of Wisconsin System ranks among the top 10 universities worldwide in biotechnology patents but falls behind several other Big Ten universities in transferring that technology to commercial uses, according to a study released today by the Milken Institute of Santa Monica, Calif.

Local biotechnology officials, however, dispute the study's findings on technology transfer.

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