Promega Reports: Court Rules Roche Taq Patent Obtained by Fraud / Remaining Taq and PCR Patents Worldwide May Fall

A Federal District Court ruled that "(a)ll claims of the '818 patent are... unenforceable," and in so doing found that a key biotechnology patent owned by Hoffmann- LaRoche on Taq polymerase was obtained by fraud on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The current global market for Taq sales alone is estimated to approach $200 million annually. In carefully worded and lengthy written findings, Judge Vaughn Walker of the Northern District of California in San Francisco concluded that the patent was obtained by fraud. In eight separate instances, the Court found that the patent holder had intentionally withheld material information and distorted important facts in obtaining the patent. The patent at issue -- the '818 Taq patent -- involves an enzyme, Taq DNA polymerase, which is a critical component in such important biotech processes as polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and gene sequencing. PCR is key to genetic identification and analysis, and researchers use both processes extensively worldwide in pursuit of prevention of or cures for disease. The Court's decision renders this primary Taq patent unenforceable and sets the stage for a finding of unenforceability for all related Taq and PCR patents. This is a major blow to Hoffmann-LaRoche, putting in jeopardy its entire Taq and related PCR patent portfolio. It also undermines the current PCR licensing strategy of both Roche and its licensing partner, Perkin-Elmer, both of whom rely heavily on sales of licensed Taq to obtain PCR royalties. The Court based its decision on extensive testimony and documentary evidence presented by Madison, Wisconsin-based Promega Corporation during a four-week trial in February 1999. Hailing the decision as a victory for the scientific research community, Promega Chairman and CEO, William Linton, stated, "The decision is a significant victory, particularly for the research community. The Court has reaffirmed the importance of honesty and integrity on the part of scientists and companies in the pursuit of patents. The decision also recognized the seminal discoveries of Professor John Trela and his lab in 1974 and Dr. Kaledin in 1980, who first published the isolation and purification of this key enzyme in the scientific literature." In addition to the financial impact of lost sales and royalties, Roche faces the prospect of monetary damages and other sanctions. The complete text of Judge Walker's order, along with extensive information on the case, may be obtained from Promega's web site:, "Patent News". ots Original Text Service: Promega Internet: CONTACT: Diana Frank, Executive Assistant of Promega, 608-277-2513, or Web site:

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