Biotech Patent Bottleneck Harms Makers

Of Better Mousetraps
Date: September 05, 1988
While the U.S. Patent Office fiddles, small firms lacking earnings records may be losing potential investors

WASHINGTON—Chemist George Rathman won’t soon forget July 1, 1987, the day that the worth of his company’s stock dropped $10 million in six hours. President and CEO of Aragen Inc., an eight-year-old biotechnology firm in Thou- sand Oaks, Calif., Rathmann calls the experience “a nightmare.” But the nightmare wasn’t caused by a crash on Wall Street. The nightmare even has a name: the US. Patent and Trademark Office.

In 1982 Amgen had applied for a patent on a technique involving a hormone genetically engineered to treat anemia. Five years later, on June 30, its competitor, Genetics Institute of Cambridge, Mass., was granted a patent involving the production of the same drug after having ified an application in 1985. Investors...

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