Intellectual property is often the backbone of a business. Some businesses rely on one key piece of IP while others may have many. Regardless, it is important for business owners to take the steps to protect their IP. A failure to do so can mean the IP is up for grabs, and competitors may try to take the idea or invention and make it their own.
This is not uncommon — even when IP protections are in place. In a recent example, a pharmaceutical company attempted to challenge another company’s IP protections used for certain medications. The potential for financial gain serves as strong motivation. The company in this case was taking on Novo Nordisk, owner of the IP around the popular weight loss drugs Wegovy and Ozempic. Experts predict this market will top $100 billion by 2024. The company challenging the IP protections argued that Novo’s patents were obvious and invalid. Patent obviousness is a defining factor for patent protection. The concept behind obviousness is that you cannot patent an idea that is obvious to experts or the public.
Using this argument, the challenger took the request to the United States Patent and Trademark Office. If successful, they could develop similar medications and tap into the market. Ultimately, the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) did not agree with the challenger’s argument.
This billion-dollar battle provides important lessons for any business with IP protections. Three of the most applicable include the following.
Language is important. A failure to properly draft the patent to your specific intellectual property can leave it open to challenge. In this example, the challenger argued the language used was too closely connected to another patent and was invalid for obviousness. If successful, the challenger could have defeated the patent protections. Since the language was closely tailored to the specific IP, they were able to survive the challenge.
Challenges are not uncommon. This is especially true when the patent involves a profitable form of IP. Businesses are wise to have procedures in place to handle these matters. Although Novo defeated the two challenges noted above, the PTAB agreed to allow a third challenge to move forward.
It is also important to note that these cases take time. The PTAB is unlikely to decide on this challenge for another year.
Continuing the example from above, Novo has also filed lawsuits against other companies in the United States that are trying to market generic versions of the medication. This shows that strong IP protections go both ways. In addition to defending against potential challenges, businesses also need to prepare to challenge competitors that attempt to infringe on their IP.