Managing IP is part of the Delinian Group, Delinian Limited, 4 Bouverie Street, London, EC4Y 8AX, Registered in England & Wales, Company number 00954730
Copyright © Delinian Limited and its affiliated companies 2023

Accessibility | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Modern Slavery Statement

Gilead counsel: how to balance high-stakes pharma cases with pro bono


Samantak Ghosh, senior IP counsel at Gilead, talks about his pivot from research to law, the rise of biologics, and his pro bono work

Gilead’s senior IP counsel Samantak Ghosh, who moved from India to the US in 2003 to get a PhD in chemistry from Stanford University, was slated to have a very different career.

Ghosh was well on his way to becoming a professional scientist when he realised that working in a wet lab was not exciting him as much as he hoped.

“I wasn’t getting intellectual stimulation out of the repetitive nature of the work I was doing,” he tells Managing IP.

During a career consultation, he discovered law as one of the top recommended options.

He took some patent law classes during his PhD programme, leading him to eventually obtain a law degree and join WilmerHale as an associate in 2013. Ghosh moved to an in-house role at Gilead in 2018.

He says: “Pursuing a career in patent law felt like a natural transition because I could leverage my significant investment in scientific education.”

While he kickstarted his career with patent prosecution work, he gradually moved on to handling litigation, which is now his key responsibility at Gilead.

Below, Ghosh explains why he loves working on high-stakes patent litigation and offering pro bono support to those in need.


What’s the most exciting part of your job?

I have been lucky to be a part of some high-profile patent litigation and work on cutting-edge technologies.

For instance, I was involved in a case centred around CAR T-cell therapy, a technology used to treat blood cancer. Juno Therapeutics alleged that Kite Pharma, which Gilead bought in 2017, infringed their patent.

We took the case to the US Supreme Court (SCOTUS) and invalidated Juno’s patent. In the process, we saved Kite billions of dollars in damages and a significant running royalty of 27.6%. The ruling enabled Gilead and Kite to succeed in the immunotherapy space and provide this life-saving treatment to many patients.

Which trends are you keeping an eye on in the pharmaceutical patent domain?

One trend that we are seeing is a shift towards biologic drugs. At one point, the pharmaceutical industry was almost exclusively focused on small-molecule drugs. But that’s changing.

Also, because of some recent decisions from the SCOTUS and the Federal Circuit, it has become increasingly difficult to get broad patents in the biologics and antibodies space, even though that’s what many companies are trying to do.

We are at an important juxtaposition where there’s a big movement towards biologics, but at the same time, the courts are telling everyone to file narrowly tailored patents to protect downstream innovation by others.

What do you look for when hiring external counsel?

The first thing we assess is how suitable the law firm is for the job. Largely, that depends upon whether the firm has the right skills, team, and particular experience.

Once we get past that, we look at how thoroughly the firm has prepared its pitch – whether it has delved into the details of our business and the relevant legal issues or only conducted superficial research.

We also value diversity a lot at Gilead. We are always looking for teams with diverse attorneys, including women, representatives from minorities, and members of the LGBTQIA+ community.

How do you balance your responsibilities at Gilead and your pro bono legal work?

I love litigation that ultimately helps people. And when you like to do something, you find time for it.

Of course, commercial patent litigation is intellectually stimulating and is very important for the company. But anything I can do to help someone's life improve even a little bit gives me a lot of satisfaction.

I have worked with Compassion & Choices, a non-profit, to assist terminally ill patients seeking the right to medical termination of their lives. I have also drafted amicus curiae briefs on LGBTQIA+ rights in a case that went all the way to the SCOTUS.

These are civil rights – rights that are worth fighting for. It's an area where we, as lawyers, can make a difference and contribute towards making our society a little bit better.

What are you looking for next in your career?

I am always looking for more growth in my career. Gilead has provided many opportunities to me. Now, I’m trying to go beyond patent litigation and learn new areas of law. For example, I’m currently working on product liability and tax cases. I’m trying to stretch my limits and acquire more skills beyond what I already have.

more from across site and ros bottom lb

More from across our site

Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas has hired former Anand & Anand partner Swati Sharma and hopes to compete with specialist IP firms
Rapporteur-Judge András Kupecz ruled that education and training weren’t legitimate reasons for a member of the public to access documents
Searches for comparison prior art will be a little easier, but practitioners will have to put more thought into claim construction and design patent titles
The Helsinki local division rejected AIM Sport’s request for a preliminary injunction in a dispute with rival Supponor
We provide a rundown of Managing IP’s news and analysis coverage from the week, and review what’s been happening elsewhere in IP
The FTC’s plans to scrutinise improperly listed Orange Book patents could make these listings more important in litigation, but firms should be looking at this anyway
Counsel at Debevoise & Plimpton explain how they helped food delivery business Grubhub avoid a preliminary injunction at the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
European lawyers tell Managing IP how the legal market is reacting to the first few months of the UPC and why cases are set to take off
The ban could be extended or cancelled, depending on whether Judge Pauline Newman cooperates with an investigation, the Judicial Council of the Federal Circuit stated
Sources say some China-based lawyers are prepared to take large pay cuts to join stable practices, but most firms are sceptical about new hires