Wisconsin Group Challenges Ruling on Stem Cell Patents
The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation on Thursday formally challenged a preliminary ruling in April by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office that rejected three patents for human embryonic stem cells that are held by the foundation, the AP/Chippewa Herald reports (Foley, AP/Chippewa Herald, 5/31).
WARF owns patents on both the method used to isolate embryonic stem cell lines and the cells themselves after a 1998 discovery by a University of Wisconsin scientist.
The Santa Monica-based Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights and New York-based Public Patent Foundation in July 2006 petitioned the federal government to revoke the patents held by WARF, saying that the patents could hinder research funded by California's stem cell agency.
The patent agency in its preliminary ruling rejected the patents because the cells appeared to be the same as, or variations of, cells described in earlier scientific papers or in patents issued to others (California Healthline, 4/3).
WARF in its formal protest said the patent agency relied on previous patents and publications that are irrelevant. The foundation also said the patents should be upheld because the scientist was the first to successfully isolate embryonic stem cells after failed attempts by others (AP/Chippewa Herald, 5/31).
The patent agency within a few months will decide whether to uphold or reverse its preliminary ruling, according to officials.
WARF officials say the group will appeal to federal court if the ruling is upheld (Wahlberg, Wisconsin State Journal, 6/1).
WARF should "drop [its] claims to human embryonic stem cells and allow the judgment of the Patent Office to stand," Jeanne Loring -- director of the Human Embryonic Stem Cell Training Program at the Burnham Institute for Medical Research in San Diego -- writes in a San Diego Union-Tribune opinion piece. Loring was one of the parties who requested that WARF's stem cell patents be re-examined.
"Let scientists use all the resources we can muster to advance human embryonic stem cell research in our laboratories," Loring writes. "By claiming ownership of all such cells, [WARF is] interfering with scientific progress, and that's why I challenged [the] patents," Loring concludes (Loring, San Diego Union-Tribune, 6/1).