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IPRs and Section 101 to take centre stage at BIO convention

With the BIO International Convention taking place next week, Michael Loney analyses the biggest topics that will be discussed among IP practitioners at the event

I’ll be attending the BIO International Convention in Philadelphia next week, and intellectual property practitioners attending the event are sure to have plenty to discuss. The two biggest topics on the agenda promise to be Patent Trial and Appeal Board proceedings and the evolution of Section 101.

I will be especially keen to hear the views in the session titled “The Impact of USPTO Inter Partes Review Proceedings on (Bio)Pharma” on Tuesday. One person sure to alluded to (even if speakers do not identify him by name) is hedge fund manager Kyle Bass (right), who is targeting pharma and biotech companies through IPR petitions. In January, he said about 15 companies would be targeted. He has been true to his word since then. Just last week he filed his 16th IPR petition, and has targeted seven companies so far.

I spoke to Bass last month for our June cover story, and he made it clear he will not be going away soon. He is adamant he will not settle.

"Our goal is to bring into the light the fact that there are pharmaceutical companies sitting on ridiculous patents that are stealing from the American public," he told me. "The system reeks of monopolistic behaviour and, not only that, monopolistic protectionist behaviour. Drug companies have hired hundreds of lobbyists to attempt to squash anyone who challenges the validity of their club."

He is unlikely to have many fans at the BIO convention. For its part, BIO said that Bass “has opened a new door of abuse of the US patent system, exploiting the USPTO’s patent challenge proceeding as part of his cynical short-selling strategy against innovative biotech companies”.

Another interesting point of discussion during the session will be potential legislative changes. Last week the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to report the PATENT Act to the full Senate. Among the last-minute changes to the bill was allowing the USPTO Director to deny PTAB petitions in the “interests of justice”, which could have been added with petitions such as Bass’s in mind.

Also of interest will be discussions about Section 101, on which there has been much change since last year’s convention. At the convention last year, biotech companies were up in arms about the USPTO’s then-fresh Myriad guidance. IP practitioners in the pharma space were horrified by the guidance, which stipulated no natural product was patentable and suggested that derivatives of natural products may not be either.

Sessions on Wednesday at the BIO convention will shed light on whether these concerns have eased. In the past year, Section 101 has evolved further with the Supreme Court’s Alice decision and new guidance from the USPTO, which the Office said was a “significant change” from its Myriad one.

Look out for my blog posts from the convention next week to hear how attendees are viewing these issues.

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