Stratagene CEO Joe Sorge circled the date — March 28, 2005 — in the company's fourth-quarter conference call last week.

"This will mark the beginning of an opportunity for us to move into the molecular diagnostics market," Sorge said.

Why March 28? On that date, Roche's core PCR patents will expire, and Sorge, like others in the molecular biology tools market, is preparing to be freed from the patent barriers that kept his company from using the technology more broadly.

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