Where patenting and technology development partnerships meet, the law and the nature of biotech discovery itself combine to create fertile ground for litigation between the partners. At the Avoiding the Perils of Biotechnology Partnering seminar in Palo Alto last week, patent attorneys noted that the time to address the potential for unanticipated disagreements is at the agreement-writing stage, when dispute resolution mechanisms can be put in place.

Default rules of ownership

The default law governing the rights of patent owners states that each co-inventor owns the entire patent regardless of how much he or she contributed to its claims. According to David Mayer, an attorney with McCutchen, Doyle, Brown & Enersen LLP, that means each owner may use and license the patent rights without the consent of the other owners.