A long-awaited decision on rights to the DNA-copying enzyme Taq polymerase was issued yesterday by a split federal appellate panel that handed an uncertain victory to Promega Corp.

The case, which has rolled around in the courts for more than ten years, could at some point hit many molecular biologists in the budget. Taq polymerase is crucial to polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technology, which allows quick DNA replication. Promega has succeeded in holding claims for royalties from Swiss giant Roche Corp. at bay while this case worked through the courts.

Should Roche prevail, prices for the widely used enzyme are likely to rise.

For now, the case is headed back to a federal court in California. The appellate court wants trial Judge Vaughn Walker of the US District Court, Northern California, to take another look at the 1999 ruling in which he found that scientists cheated to land...

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