On July 29th, Rep. Frank Wolf (D.-Va.) introduced H.R. 5980 that would give priority to examination of patent applications filed by U.S. universities and by their “patent holding companies.” The definition of the latter seems a bit vague, but is apparently intended to cover entities like the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) that finances prep/pros of patents by University of Wisconsin inventors and licenses them to provide income to both entities. The patents are assigned to WARF when they issue. The bill would also limit the early publication of U.S. patents to their abstracts. The bill is clearly an attempt to levy an IP “tariff” on foreign inventors but, for those of us with big university practices, it is an intriguing concept (if not a good idea).
In a somewhat related news item, a group of patients afflicted with Fabry’s disease have asked The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to “march in” under the provisions of the Bayh-Dole Act, and permit/require Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, the owner of two patents (U.S. Pat. Nos. 5356804 and 5580757) covering the drug Fabrazyme, to grant additional licenses to manufacture and market the drug. This request is made under the “march in” provisions of the Bayh-Dole act, which founded the entire “industry” of university technology transfer in the 80’s. It is based on the allegation that Genzyme cannot meet the need for the drug, given its recent quality control problems. During the early years of the AIDS epidemic, such requests were made regarding the few anti-HIV drugs that were then available. As far as I know, none of the prior requests were granted.