News Feature | March 6, 2014

Study Claims Patent Trolls Could Affect Drug Companies

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By Marcus Johnson

Patent trolls are typically associated with the technology industry and computer software. But a new study released by the University of California Hasting College of the Law professor Robin Feldman and Harvard Law School fellow Nicholson Price claims that patent trolls could soon find their way to the drug industry. The duo’s study asserts that nonpracticing entities have begun acquiring patents from research universities and other sources. Some of those patents might be able to be used against drug producers or biotech companies in court.

The study’s authors called patent trolls a “serious threat” for the drug industry. “It is not inevitable that monetizers will descend on the bio and pharmaceutical industries, but in our opinion, it is a serious threat,” said Feldman and Price. “The patent holdings of universities do indeed appear to hold many patents of potential interest to monetizers seeking to target the biopharmaceutical industry. While high tech may be low-hanging fruit, the proliferation and increasing sophistication of monetizers means that other industries are likely to be targeted in the near future.”

The study claims that the patents that universities do hold, such as dosage levels and methods for manufacturing drugs, could be acquired by nonpracticing entities and then used against pharmaceutical companies. Most universities don’t hold patents for drugs.

The Association of University Technology Managers manages intellectual property for a number of universities. According to the study, the organization is looking into changing policy regarding the sale of university patents. The new policy change could possibly mean the organization recommends universities don’t sell their patents to nonpracticing entities that plan on using patents for litigation.

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