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Troubles with Patents

A discussion on patenting at The Atlantic has caught the eye of In the Pipeline blogger Derek Lowe. Lowe is particularly interested in the issue of the patenting of small molecules, particularly the point that The Atlantic piece makes that "it is getting increasingly difficult to patent small molecules because their structures are increasingly found in the ever growing patent literature for completely different targets." Lowe asks, how big of a problem is this? Sometimes it can be a "roadblock" especially in areas where some structural motifs have the potential to be overused, he says. But how many projects across industry have to start "from a bad position" because of patenting issues? "If you have some big, long-running projects that have cranked out a lot of similar-looking chemical matter in certain areas, these things are naturally going to be over-represented in your corporate screening files," Lowe says. "If they're really useful structures, the challenge (after a while) becomes how to avoid starting off yet another program from the same general structures." But as for starting a project and halting it later because of patentability issues, Lowe says, "It happens!" He doesn't see a huge problem in researchers starting investigations into molecules and having to stop because someone else holds a patent, especially since as projects get more complex, there's usually a way around other claims.

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