San Jose Mercury News (California)
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has rejected three University of Wisconsin patents for human embryonic stem cells, which consumer advocates had claimed might hamper stem-cell research in California.
The federal agency’s ruling was received Monday by two consumer groups that challenged the patents, the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights and the Public Patent Foundation.
“This is a great day for scientific research,” said John Simpson, of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights.
University of Wisconsin officials could not be reached for comment on whether they planned to appeal. But even if an appeal succeeded, the patents’ potential impact on California already has been significantly reduced.
On Jan. 22, the university announced that officials with California’s $3 billion stem-cell research institute would not have to pay license fees if they used the patented stem-cell technology. The consumer groups had claimed such fees could prove a costly impediment to California’s stem-cell studies.
The ruling could have an impact on Geron of Menlo Park, which has exclusive rights to use some of the patented technology involved in the federal agency’s ruling.
If the patents are rejected permanently, Geron wouldn’t have to pay license fees to use the technology, said David Greenwood, Geron‘s executive vice president and chief financial officer. And while Geron would lose its exclusive right to the technology, the company has other stem-cell licensing rights and patents that give it a edge on other stem-cell companies, Greenwood said.
Nonetheless, Geron is supporting the University of Wisconsin’s claim to the patents, which remains far from resolved, assuming the university files an appeal, Greenwood said.
“This initial ruling is not necessarily indicative of the final result,” he said. “It’s a lengthy process.”Mbr>
Contact Steve Johnson at [email protected] or (408) 920-5043.