In the continuing saga in the lawsuit seeking invalidation of gene patents, Patently-O is reporting that Senior Judge Robert W. Sweet has denied the defendants’ motions to dismiss the case in its entirety. The court issued an 85 page opinion on the issues.
Initially, the court recognized that:
[t]his action is unique in the identity of the parties, the scope and significance of the issues presented, and the consequences of the remedies sought. . . . The challenges to the patents-in-suit raise questions of difficult legal dimensions.
The PTO argued that the “comprehensive statutory scheme” set forth in the Patent Act precludes suits of this type against it, as well as that the suit was precluded by sovereign immunity. The court rejected the PTO’s arguments and held that the Patent Act did not preclude constitutional challenges to PTO actions and that the PTO does not enjoy sovereign immunity from such constitutional challenges.
Next, the defendants argued that the plaintiffs lacked standing to bring this action because there is no case or controversy between the parties. In effect, the plaintiffs have no reason to believe they will be sued for infringing the patents. Again, the court rejected this argument because the argument did not address the alleged unconstitutional practices and policies of the PTO, but instead was only addressed to statutory violations.
The court also cited MedImmune in holding that the particular facts of this case warrant a finding of jurisdiction. The court analyzed the actions of defendant Myriad in enforcing the patents and threatening or suing others to determine that there was an actual case or controversy between the parties.
Finally, the court held that the plaintiffs’ allegations of constitutional violations are adequate. The plaintiffs challenge specific examination guidelines that were published in the Federal Register in 2001.
The court had stayed proceedings dealing with the plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment while it considered the motions to dismiss. Now that it has ruled on these motions, the summary judgment proceedings and arguments will take place in December.
It is important to note while the plaintiffs did overcome a major hurdle in the motions to dismiss, they still have a long way to go to proving their claims and winning the case. When a court considers a motion to dismiss, it considers the case in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Thus, it considers the facts alleged in the complaint to be true.
Judge Sweet was born in 1922 and was appointed to the federal bench by President Carter in 1978. He became a senior district court judge in 1991. Judge Sweet is a member of and serves on the advisory board for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), a group of police officers, government agents, and other law enforcement officers who oppose the War on Drugs and seek to legalize drugs.