Santa Monica, CA — The response to the rejection of all claims on patents on human embryonic stem cells by the holder of the patents, the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF), was as expected, consumer groups said today.
Acting on re-examination requests by the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR) and the Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT), the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office rejected all claims on three patents. WARF had two months to respond.
“We are studying the arguments, but they appear mostly to be a rehash of what was already before the PTO,” said John M. Simpson, FTCR’s stem cell project director. “We will make a substantive response as provided in the inter partes patent re-examination process.”
FTCR and PUBPAT have a month to respond.
The patent challenges were filed last July by FTCR and PUBPAT because the three WARF patents were impeding scientific progress and driving vital stem cell research overseas. FTCR and PUBPAT argued that the work done by University of Wisconsin researcher James Thomson to isolate stem cell lines was obvious in the light of previous scientific research, making his work unpatentable. Dr. Jeanne Loring of the Burnham Institute for Medical Research filed a statement supporting the challenge. To receive a patent, something must be new, useful and non-obvious. The PTO agreed with the groups.
A recent U.S. Supreme Court decision has made it more difficult to show that an invention was not obvious, further bolstering the position of the patent challengers.
Third party requests for patent re-examination, like the ones filed by FTCR and PUBPAT, are ultimately successful in having the subject patent either changed or completely revoked roughly 70% of the time.
In the face of the challenges by FTCR and PUBPAT, WARF announced in January that it would ease its licensing requirements on human embryonic stem cells.
The groups said the patents’ dubious validity is underscored by the fact that no other country in the world honors them. As a result, U.S. researchers have sent research monies abroad where they can avoid paying royalties to WARF.
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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: www.ConsumerWatchdog.org. Our stem cell information page is located at: www.StemCellWatch.org.
The Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT) 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 the web at: www.pubpat.org.