Stem cell patent challenge stopped dead
Washington DC | 24 February 2015

The US Supreme Court has declined to hear a consumer advocacy group’s challenge of a stem cell patent, following a Federal Circuit ruling that it lacked legal standing to do so.

The country’s top court refused Consumer Watchdog’s petition without comment on 23 February, leaving intact the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit’s holding that the non-for-profit group cannot challenge an administrative decision to uphold the patent on human embryonic stem cells.

The Federal Circuit held in June 2014 that Consumer Watchdog was entitled to take part in administrative review of the patent, but could not appeal the US Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO) decision to uphold the patent, because the group was not directly harmed.

Consumer Watchdog filed a petition with the Supreme Court in October last year, arguing that the Federal Circuit’s ruling directly contravened presidential and congressional intent to provide for court appeal of administrative responses to requests in any field, and to empower the public to seek revocation of invalid patents.

The consumer advocacy group sought to challenge the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation’s (WARF) patent in 2006 through re-examination, because it believed the patent to be invalid and would stunt stem cell development if it went unchallenged.

The USPTO did reject the patent, but the foundation narrowed its claims and promised to give more favourable licensing terms.

WARF was eventually awarded the modified patent, which now covers only embryo-derived stem cells, and excludes cells derived by re-programming.

Author: Mark Dugdale



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