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GTG ramps up gene patent litigation efforts

GTG ramps up gene patent litigation efforts

Genetic Technologies (ASX:GTG) has cemented its relationship with its intellectual property bulldog, Sheridan Ross, as it seeks to assert its DNA patents in markets outside of the US.

Dylan Bushell-Embling (Australian Life Scientist)

10 July, 2012

Genetic Technologies (ASX:GTG) is expanding its DNA patent enforcement efforts outside of the US, revealing plans to explore options including litigation in regions starting with Europe.

The company has expanded the scope of its retention arrangement with US-based IP attorneys Sheridan Ross. The new agreement will allow the attorneys to represent GTG in lawsuits filed outside of the US.

The extended contract also covers GTG’s entire patent portfolio, instead of the initial four US patents.

GTG has been using the legal system to demand licensing deals for its non-coding DNA patents since 2010, when it filed suit against nine US companies.

The company now plans to extend these enforcement activities internationally, and Sheridan Ross will effectively act as lead counsel in the international efforts, which may include litigation.

GTG CEO Paul MacLeman claimed that Europe in particular is home to “numerous large infringers who have not as yet taken licenses” to the company’s non-coding DNA patents.

“It is hoped that these more formal assertion efforts will be what is required to secure licenses from these entities that until now have resisted less formal efforts to regularise their activities,” he said.

GTG has meanwhile revealed that one of its non-coding DNA patents is being challenged by a defendant in one of the US lawsuits.

The US Patent and Trademark Office has agreed to a request from Merial LLC to re-examine claims from patent number 5,612,179, a key component of GTG’s IP enforcement activities in the nation.

This is the second time the patent office has agreed to a request to re-examine the patent. The last time was in 2010, but the patent was found to be valid. Even if the patent is overturned, it will only affect outstanding litigation in the US.

But the validity of patents related to human genes remains a hot topic worldwide. In Australia, a landmark trial which commenced in February is testing US-based Myriad Genetics’ patent for the BRC1 gene mutation, which is a strong indicator of breast cancer risks.

The case, filed by plaintiffs including Cancer Voices Australia, marks the first time an Australian court has considered whether isolated human genes are patentable.

Genetic Technologies (ASX:GTG) shares were trading unchanged by around 2pm on Tuesday at $0.115.

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