Both sides claim partial victory in the latest phase of a long-running patent fight over a widely used DNA-replicating enzyme. The case presents fascinating legal issues, but the ultimate question is, what does it have to do with the price of Thermus aquaticus DNA polymerase, known as Taq?1

On March 31, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit Court overturned a lower court ruling that effectively invalidated Roche's patent on Taq for PCR.2 By a 2-to-1 vote, the appellate court upheld some of US District Judge Vaughn R. Walker's findings, but asked him to take another look at the December 1999 decision, which says that scientists cheated to land the patent, rendering it worthless against Promega.

Lawyers say they do not know which way Walker will move when he does reconsider the case, and it may take years for the lawsuit that began in 1992...

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