Public Interest Groups Ask US Court To Invalidate Stem Cell Patent

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By Kelly Burke for Intellectual Property Watch

A human embryonic stem cell patent held by the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) should be invalidated, according to a legal filing made on 2 July by two public interest groups.

Consumer Watchdog and the Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT) submitted a brief [pdf] to the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit arguing the patent is invalid because the cells are products of nature, and therefore not patentable. The groups cited the recent US Supreme Court ruling against Myriad Genetics, which invalidated Myriad’s patent on isolating human genes (IPW, US Policy, 14 June 2013).

WARF patent 7,029,913, referred to as the ‘913 patent, covers three claims of in vitro cultures of human embryonic stem cells by researcher James Thomson of the University of Wisconsin in 1998.

According to a press release by Consumer Watchdog, the patent challenge was first filed by the two groups in 2006 through a process called reexamination, in which third parties ask the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to revoke a patent that it previously issued. WARF’s patent was initially rejected by the USPTO, but after an appeal from WARF that narrowed the patent’s scope, the USPTO reversed its conclusion.

“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, just like the Patent Office did at first during our reexamination,” Dan Ravicher, executive director of the Public Patent Foundation, said in the release.

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