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District Court Rejects Request to Dismiss CSHL Suit Against Former Patent Counsel

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A US District Court last week rejected a request for dismissal of a lawsuit Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory filed against legal firm Ropes & Gray for allegedly mishandling patent applications.

The dispute began in early 2010 when CSHL sued Ropes & Gray and its former attorney Matthew Vincent in a New York District Court for allegedly improperly prosecuting US two patent applications — Nos. 20040018999, filed May 16, 2001, and 20020162126, filed May 24, 2001 — that cover the work of CSHL investigator Greg Hannon (GSN 2/25/2010).

CSHL specifically alleges that Vincent, who was handling the patent applications, did not provide "an original, complete description of … Hannon's work … [but instead] relied upon copying extensive portions of text — essentially verbatim — from a prior patent application" published by RNAi pioneers Andrew Fire, of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, and Craig Mello, of the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

In doing so, Vincent created the impression that Hannon's work was "either something that Fire invented or was suggested by the Fire application," rather than a novel invention that "represented a considerable advance over the prior art," the suit alleges.

CSHL said that it did not become aware of the situation until the patent applications had become “unfairly prejudiced,” leading to their rejection by the US Patent and Trademark Office.

Ropes & Gray maintains that the patent applications were rejected based on prior art, rather than Vincent's actions, and asked that the case be dismissed.

The court hearing that case last year decided that it was not the proper venue for the suit, which was transferred to a District Court in Massachusetts.

Last week, that court ruled against Ropes & Gray's dismissal request.

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