SANTA MONICA, CA — Two consumer groups today filed an appeal in their challenge of a controversial patent on human embryonic stem cells held by the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF).
Consumer Watchdog, formerly The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, and the Public Patent Foundation appealed to the U.S. Patent Office’s Board of Appeals and Interferences. The PTO examiner narrowed WARF’s patent after the two groups requested a re-examination of the patent in July 2006. Initially all the patent claims were rejected, but this spring the PTO granted the narrowed claims.
The two groups noted that the patent challenge has already improved the situation for stem cell researchers; shortly after the PTO launched the re-examination, WARF announced a substantial easing of its licensing requirements.
“WARF executives were acting like arrogant bullies blinded by dollar signs,” said John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog’s Stem Cell Project Director. “Our challenge has engendered a more co-operative stance towards the stem cell research community on their part.”
"When we filed this challenge, we fully expected to take an appeal if necessary," said Dan Ravicher, PUBPAT’s Executive Director and the attorney representing Consumer Watchdog before the PTO in these challenges. "Although we won a substantial victory at the examiner level when WARF was forced to narrow their patent claims, we still believe that even the narrower patent is invalid and that’s the issue we plan to contest with the PTO’s Board of Appeals."
Joining the two consumer groups in the challenge from the beginning was Dr. Jeanne Loring, now director of the Center for Regenerative Medicine at the Scripps Institute. Later in the case Dr. Alan Trounson, then of Australia’s Monash University and now president of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, Dr. Douglas Melton of Harvard and Dr. Chad Cowan of Harvard filed affidavits supporting the challenge.
"It’s not just scientists that are affected by the patents" said Dr. Loring. “Patients and their families know that WARF’s iron-fisted control of stem cells is slowing life-saving research.”
The appeal will show that the creation of human embryonic stem cell lines was obvious in the light of work that had been done in other species. No other country in the world recognizes the WARF stem cell patent.
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Consumer Watchdog, formerly known as The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, is a leading non-profit and non-partisan consumer advocacy group. For more information visit us on the web at: www.ConsumerWatchdog.org
The Public Patent Foundation is a not-for-profit legal services organization that represents the public’s interests against the harms caused by the patent system, particularly the harms caused by undeserved patents and unsound patent policy. For more information, visit us on the web at: www.PubPat.org.