Supreme Court’s eBay Ruling Weakens Position of Stem Cell Patent Holder, But Vital California Research Still Impeded, Consumer Advocates Say

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Santa Monica, CA — A ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court this week involving online auction giant eBay means an affiliate of the University of Wisconsin has less power to assert its dubious patent claims to control all human embryonic stem cells in the United States, the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR) said today.

Nonetheless, FTCR said, the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) patents are jeopardizing California’s Proposition 71 stem cell research program and should be challenged. WARF claims not only a patent on a method to isolate stem cells, but on all human embryonic stem cells — no matter who derived them, how they were derived or where the research was done. The United States is the only country in the world to recognize WARF‘s patent claims.

Earlier this spring in San Francisco, Elizabeth Donley, WARF‘s general counsel, told a meeting on stem cell research that WARF would aggressively assert its licensing rights. She said because the state of California expects a payback if any cures are developed with Prop 71 public money, her organization is entitled to a share of the revenue.

“Anything that weakens WARF‘s stranglehold on research is a good thing,” said John M. Simpson, FTCR’s Stem Cell Project director. “But these over-reaching patents really need to be broken.”

Simpson noted that Dr. Robert Goldstein, chief scientific officer for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, recently told the California stem cell institute’s intellectual property committee that the WARF patents are “a major inhibition to productive scientific research.”

Because of WARF‘s claims, Goldstein said, “We’ve concentrated efforts outside the United States to create new and better stem cell lines, and that process has occurred and is currently flourishing.”

Earlier this week in the eBay case the Supreme Court ruled that an injunction is not mandatory in cases of patent infringement. The court said courts “may” impose an injunction, but other remedies such as financial damages and royalties are also possible. This means patent holders, like WARF, will find it more difficult to prove that an injunction is necessary.

“This helps level the playing field in patent law, which sorely needs Congressional reform,” said Simpson. “However, it doesn’t get to the heart of the matter with WARF. These are patents that simply never should have issued.”

California’s stem cell institute, the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) will finance $3 billion in stem cell research. Including bond financing, $6 billion in taxpayer funds is at stake.

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The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights is California’s leading non-profit and non-partisan consumer watchdog group. For more information visit us on the web at: Our stem cell information page is located at:

Consumer Watchdog
Consumer Watchdog
Providing an effective voice for American consumers in an era when special interests dominate public discourse, government and politics. Non-partisan.

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