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Stanford Loses Patent Ruling Over HIV Kits

(CN)- The Federal Circuit dismissed Stanford University's patent claims against a private lab that created HIV detection kits using methods developed through collaborations with university researchers.

The university sued Pleasanton, Calif.-based Roche Molecular Systems in 2005, saying it had infringed on patented methods for quantifying the HIV virus in human blood samples and correlating those measurements to the therapeutic effectiveness of anti-retroviral drugs.

The method, developed by Stanford scientists and Cetus Corp. in the late 1980s and early 1990s, enables measurement of relatively small quantities of nucleic acids by amplifying a sample to detectable levels.

In a counterclaim, Roche argued that Stanford lacked standing to sue, because Roche had purchased Cetus' assets, including "ownership, license, and/or shop rights to the patents."

During collaborations between Stanford and Cetus, the Stanford researchers signed several written agreements allowing Stanford to use certain materials and information supplied by Cetus, the ruling states.

Those agreements also provided Cetus with "licenses to technology that Stanford created as a result of access to Cetus's materials," Judge Linn wrote.

Also, one of the university's primary researchers in the Cetus collaboration, Mark Holodniy, signed his rights over to Cetus, Linn noted.

This evidence was enough for the court.

"Stanford provides no evidence that the (agreement) restrained Holodniy from engaging in any profession. Indeed, the record shows that Holodniy freely continued his HIV research at Stanford, publishing articles and using the knowledge he obtained from Cetus to further the science behind the patents-in-suit," Linn wrote.

"Nor does Stanford explain how Holodniy's assignment of his rights to Cetus prohibited Holodniy from using any public information in his later research," the judge continued.

Linn added that "Stanford's inability to establish that it possessed Holodniy's interest in the patents-in-suit defeats its right to assert its cause of action against Roche."

Roche's ownership interest deprives Stanford of standing, the court ruled. It vacated the district court's judgment with instructions to dismiss.


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