There's a patent issue that I've been meaning to write about for a week or so. All I have time to do tonight is set the stage for it.
Let's say that Company A has an interesting compound, a clinical candidate that's moving along and showing interesting activity. It's out there in the patent literature, and they've spoken about it enough to release its structure. Naturally, the competition is interested. Can Company B make themselves a batch of the compound to see how good it really is?
Well, I hope that the answer remains "yes", because we do that sort of thing all the time. We're always sizing up the competition, and they're doing to same to us. It's not unheard of for scientists with friends at other companies to get calls from them saying "How come you people say that your compound does so-and-so? It sure doesn't for us, you losers!"
What if Company B wants to use Company A's compound to do a little bit more for them, though. . .like, say, serve as a crucial ligand in a screen of their own compound library? And what if Company B uses those results to eventually discovers a fine drug candidate of their own, one which, arguably, they wouldn't have found at all without the use of Company A's chemical matter? Is there a problem here, or not?
Well, the Supreme Court has ended up with a case that bears on just these sorts of questions, so later on this year we can expect to all be enlightened, enraged, or just plain baffled. More on this tomorrow. . .