Glaxo Claims in Suit
Its Patent Applications
In U.S. Are at Risk
October 13, 2007; Page A4
GlaxoSmithKline PLC is squaring off against the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. In a lawsuit filed Wednesday, the United Kingdom-based pharmaceutical company claimed that the office's new rules, due to take effect Nov. 1, could damage about 100 of the company's pending patent applications.
The lawsuit is believed to be the first by a corporation to challenge the rules, which are designed to make the patent-application process more "efficient by encouraging applicants to use greater precision in describing the scope of their inventions," according to a statement by the patent office.
"The patent office is very concerned with the growing backlog of patent applications," said Gene Quinn, a patent attorney not involved in the litigation. "They want to make applications smaller and allow people to apply for fewer applications." But Mr. Quinn adds that if the rules take effect, "it will become extremely expensive to obtain meaningful patent protection."
The patent office declined to comment on the suit. Under existing rules, after an initial patent application, companies can file an unlimited number of "continuing" applications, which are typically aimed at refining the scope of patent protection for a certain invention. Under the proposed rules, after parties have filed two continuing applications, they would be barred from filing additional ones without showing that new claims "could not have" been submitted during a prior filing.
Glaxo says that after an initial application, it can learn information that may help it obtain stronger patent protection.
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