Signs of hope on patent eligibility reform as Congress weighs arguments

Patent eligibility reform is in striking distance, but the ways of Congress likely won’t see it pass this session.

The wait is still far from over for fixing the rules on what can be patented -- a move that could give diagnostics a fighting chance of becoming commercially viable. That said, a three-day Congressional hearing saw enough common ground to believe the change will happen. Biopharmas have an opportunity now to weigh in and try to speed things up.

In three sessions over the last two weeks, the Senate IP Subcommittee heard testimony from 45 witnesses on a draft bill that would update three sections of the Patent Act and widen the net of patent eligible subject matter to include certain biomedical inventions whose lack of patentability has largely been responsible for the dismal state of diagnostics investment. Personalized medicine is at stake too.

During the hearing, pro-reform parties including biotech representatives argued the need for broadening patent eligibility to restore innovation in medical technologies and to maintain the U.S.’s position as a global leader given that China and Europe have looser patent eligibility requirements (see “Patent Eligibility, Biotechs Say Not Enough”).

Anti-reform stakeholders -- notably tech company representatives -- countered that wider patent eligibility would harm tech companies and small businesses by opening the door to abusive litigation and hindering innovation. They also

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