TPA could just as well stand for Target of Patent Attack. Tissue plasminogen activator, a drug that dissolves blood clots in heart attack victims, has ignited another dispute. On June 14, Monsanto was granted a narrow patent for its naturally derived version of TPA. Meanwhile, back in South San Francisco, Genentech received broad patent protection for TPA—one that covers the drug regardless of how it is derived—on June 21. The company then immediately filed suit against Wellcome Foundation of the United Kingdom and Genetics Institute of Cambridge, Mass., for patent infringement.

Why sue the Wellcome-Genetics Institute team and not Monsanto—or any of the other dozen-odd companies doing TPA work? Because Wellcome’s product is closest to market, says a Genentech spokesperson, noting: “It’s expensive to litigate.” Genentech is now defending itself on two fronts, for on June 27, a British court began listening to Genentech’s appeal of a U.K. patent suit...

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