John Bial, president and CEO of biotech firm Yecuris Corporation in Portland, thinks first to file means “people will have to be a lot more careful in their conversations,” and says it’s seldom clear in collaboration when a patentable idea has presented itself. “You never know until you’re done if it’s going to generate anything useful.”
“People are naive,” he adds. “They don’t get the right kinds of confidentiality agreements in place and they get scooped. And now it will be worse.” Yecuris has two patents pending for mice bioengineered to contain human livers and immune systems, which sell for $1,500 to $3,500 per mouse as research subjects for drug metabolism, toxicity and a host of infectious diseases. The company also has a patent pending on a rat version of its technology and licenses two patents to enable operability of the models.
Bial anticipates a five-year wait on patents. In the biotech field, slower patent examination is the norm, along with extended waits for FDA approval, so the 20-year monopoly on a product is often cut in half or worse. Bial hopes the reforms will speed up patents and reduce litigation. He knows of one infringement suit that lasted 10 years. “It cost time and money on both sides. I’m not sure that anyone won.”