NEW YORK, Nov 1 - When Affymetrix entered the uncharted waters of DNA chips in 1991, microarrays were highly specialized and complex tools that few companies were ready to market or use.

But over the past few years, many companies have begun to understand the underlying technology and find ways to circumvent Affy’s host of over 300 protective patents, pointing to the possibility that these tools could become commodity items.

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