BBJ quotes Heather Repicky in “Patent lawyers fear court ruling would hurt biotech firms, startups”Print PDF
Heather B. Repicky, a partner the firm’s Intellectual Property Litigation group, was quoted by the Boston Business Journal in “Patent lawyers fear court ruling would hurt biotech firms, startups” on November 11. The article discusses the upcoming Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruling on claims brought by Chris Maling against Finnegan Henderson Farabow Garrett & Dunner LLP. Maling claims the law firm cost him millions by failing to disclose that its lawyers in another office had worked with a competitor on a similar invention even though Finnegan obtained patents for both clients.
A lower court previously ruled in favor of Finnegan, however, if the SJC rules in favor of Maling, Massachusetts patent lawyers could be barred from taking on more than one client with a similar product or idea. Heather, who filed a brief in the case on behalf of the Boston Patent Law Association, points out that this would mean a firm could only have a single client in a particular area of technology, harming the practices of lawyers who have built up specialties in that area. “That’s not OK for attorneys, because it clearly limits your client base,” she said.
She notes that companies in Boston’s thriving biotech sector could be particularly affected by a Maling victory, since they rely so heavily on patent specialists. “There are only going to be so many patent attorneys who have a Ph.D. in molecular biology,” Heather said. “If you’re an inventor in that field, and you’re looking for an attorney who has a molecular biology background, you’re already going to be in a limited universe of potential lawyers. Now we’d be further limiting it with the ‘similar invention’ rule.” Without specialists, attorneys would need more time to complete patent applications−costing companies money. Heather also observes that larger companies could strategically crowd out smaller competitors and startups by hiring many of the most accomplished law firms for small amounts of work, leaving those with fewer resources with few options for experienced patent prosecutors.
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