Eli Lilly & Co. Loses Appeal in British Supreme Court Over Patent Dispute Over Gene Sequence


London, U.K. – The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom has ruled against Indianapolis-based Eli Lilly & Company in a patent dispute. Lilly had challenged the validity of the patent of Human Genome Sciences, Inc., of Rockville, Maryland that covers the gene sequence of a protein called Neutrokine-α. lilly.jpgLilly had challenged the patent based on the fact that there is no known use of the protein. Thus, Lilly argued, the gene sequence was not patentable due to a lack of industrial application.

According to the Indianapolis Business Journal, Lilly continues to maintain the patent is invalid. The IBJ quoted a Lilly statement as stating “Human Genome Sciences seek to foreclose a whole area of research in a way that is not only harmful to the industry, but would ultimately and unjustifiably hinder the future development of new medicines.”

Practice Tip: The Court’s decision was based upon the European Patent Convention and United Kingdom patent doctrine requiring a patentable invention be susceptible to industrial application, which is similar to the U.S. patent doctrine of utility. The Court’s decision here holds that the U.S. doctrine of utility creates a higher bar to patentability that the E.U. and U.K. doctrine. The opinion explicitly rejected U.S. cases on the doctrine, including Brenner v Manson, 383 U.S. 519 (1966) and in re Fisher, 421 F.3d 1365 (2005).


British Supreme Court Lilly Opinion

This judgment was determined by the British Supreme Court on November 2, 2011.

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