Consumer Watchdog will apparently need to get into stem cell research in order to get Courts to act on the validity of stem cell patents. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has dismissed Consumer Watchdog’s challenge to a stem cell patent granted in 2007 to the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF). The court did not rule on the merits of the challenge, but dismissed it based on Consumer Watchdog not being involved in the work on human embryonic stem cells. As they weren’t directly involved or affected by stem cell research, the court decided that Consumer Watchdog lacked standing to challenge the patent. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) made that argument in filings earlier this year.
Consumer Watchdog filed the case because it felt that aggressive defense of the patent by WARF could effectively pre-empt research on stem cells in the State of California. Perhaps the challenge would have met the court’s requirements for standing if a California research university, or the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (which supports stem cell research in the state) had filed it. At least for now, the patent stands. As it expires in 2015, the window of opportunity to successfully challenge it, and change related patent law, is small. The decision also suggests, as one of the legal experts quoted by ScienceInsider implies, that challenges by consumer groups like California Watchdog (or the ACLU) may not get much further than the USPTO.