- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 21, 2006


The U.S. Supreme Court agreed yesterday to hear a case this fall about whether Gaithersburg drug maker MedImmune Inc. has the right to file a lawsuit against rival Genentech Inc. over a lucrative drug patent.

MedImmune asserts that San Francisco-based Genentech and the British biotechnology firm Celltech R&D; Ltd. schemed to obtain a patent on antibody technology, reputedly in violation of antitrust laws. MedImmune wants the patent invalidated.

Several companies use manufactured antibodies as the basis of new drugs. In return, the companies pay Genentech licensing fees under patents held by the drug maker known as “Cabilly” after inventor Shmuel Cabilly. That includes MedImmune, which uses antibody technology for the childhood respiratory drug Synagis, which topped $1 billion in worldwide sales last year.

Genentech obtained a Cabilly patent in 1989 that was set to expire in 2006. In 2001, it acquired a second patent through negotiations with Celltech, which had a similar antibody patent. The second Cabilly patent runs through 2018.

MedImmune filed an antitrust lawsuit in Los Angeles in 2003, contending that Celltech and Genentech colluded over the second patent. But federal district and appeals courts rejected MedImmune’s claim, saying it did not have a right to file suit under federal law.

In October, however, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office rejected the second Cabilly patent but agreed to re-examine its decision, which could be a lengthy process.

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