Leahy And Cornyn Lead Letter Asking Patent Office To Address Anti-Competitive Patent Thickets

WASHINGTON (WEDNESDAY, June 8, 2022) -- Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and John Cornyn (R-TX) led a bipartisan letter Wednesday asking the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to address an issue that is a significant cause of soaring drug prices.  Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Susan Collins (R-ME), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Mike Braun (R-IN) also joined the letter.

The senators explained that drug companies and other large companies sometimes artificially extend the period in which they can charge high prices by filing many patents on nearly the same invention, creating a so-called patent thicket of dozens of patents on a single drug.  Those thickets make any challenge to the patents, or to the drug companies’ pricing of the covered drug, nearly impossible.  Because of the exorbitant cost of taking on each of the patents in these patent thickets, generic manufacturers are impeded from entering the market, hurting competition and raising prices for American consumers.  The secondary patents, which are similar to the originals, often receive less scrutiny from the Patent Office but have an outsized effect on everyday Americans who struggle to afford expensive medication.

Leahy believes the Patent Office has the ability to address this abusive practice, and he is asking the agency to take action to rein in this misuse of the patent system.  The letter requests that the Patent Office look into specific ideas for curbing the abuse and “take regulatory steps to improve patent quality and eliminate large collections of patents on a single invention.”  The Patent Act clearly states an inventor may obtain a single patent for a single invention, not dozens.  The senators believe the Patent Office can and should stop these large companies from undermining the patent system, obstructing appropriate competition, stifling innovation, and hurting Americans, who end up paying for all of this at the pharmacy.

Read the full letter here.

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