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Patent transfer deals suffer defeat by administrative court

A case involving the University of Minnesota was reviewed by a United States administrative court earlier in December. The case, which involved the court's right to review the validity of patents, shot down the argument by the school that its sovereign status granted it immunity from such an idea.

The United States Patent Trial and Appeal Board issued the ruling, which strikes a blow to technology and pharmaceutical companies that have tried to move their patents to Native American tribes and state universities in an effort to prevent them from getting reviewed.

Because state universities and Native American tribes are government entities they can claim sovereign immunity, which means they have to consent to litigation before it occurs. In a different case from January 2017, the board ruled that sovereign immunity can be used as a defense, which is a direct disagreement with their latest ruling.

The ruling in the latest case came because the court said that the school waived its right to sovereign immunity by filing lawsuits in 2014 in federal court against Ericsson, the telecom equipment manufacturer surrounding patent infringement.

The latest ruling puts a damper on the plan put forth by Allergen, the makers of Restasis. The company had transferred its patents for Restasis to a tribe in upstate New York, the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe, and pays the tribe to reacquire the licenses.

Administrative litigation is a complex part of the law in Cleveland. An experienced attorney will be able to help you or your company defend itself against such lawsuits in a court of law.

Source: Reuters, "U.S. administrative court deals major blow to patent transfer deals," Dec. 19, 2017

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