Life Sciences

Overview

The 2011 Leahy-Smith America Invents Act fundamentally changed the process by which life sciences companies protect their inventions. U.S. patents are no longer awarded to the first to invent, but instead to the first to file.

As a result, understanding the system and the standards for protecting intellectual property (IP) is as crucial today as understanding the science behind it. In life sciences, understanding both is the key to ensuring that breakthrough science can move from the laboratory to the marketplace. 

 

The Life Sciences attorneys at Michael Best bring a distinctive proficiency, marked by decades of experience, a variety of advanced degrees, and firsthand knowledge of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO). Our team’s legal and technical aptitudes put us in a unique position to help inventors make difficult decisions when years of work and millions of dollars are on the line — and the clock is ticking.

The first-to-file environment — combined with the nearly instantaneous pace of communications and the relentless globalization of business, science, and governing laws — has created immense pressure to win the race to the patent office. But many inventors don’t realize that filing too soon can be just as bad as losing the race; it can lead to rejection of an application, providing openings for competitors to lay claim to important aspects of a new innovation. Identifying precisely when to file requires trusted counsel who are not only steeped in knowledge of the PTO’s workings, but also armed with the ability to understand what makes the science or technology novel.

Wielding that combined legal and scientific knowledge, the attorneys at Michael Best guide our clients and their inventions through the abundant minefields of the patent, regulatory, litigation, and post-grant review processes. For our Life Sciences team, the first step often involves helping clients determine an invention’s market potential and whether it is great enough to justify the costly, lengthy journey to patent protection. 

Our in-house scientific expertise stems in part from the firm’s unique EDGE program, which provides internships for science and engineering students with highly developed research and analytical skills. EDGE interns collaborate with intellectual property attorneys at Michael Best to provide insight during, and before, the patent process. Those insights are proving more valuable than ever today, as many life sciences companies reduce their in-house research teams and rely more heavily on universities and start-ups to spur innovation.

As the patent process inevitably grows more complex, and the life sciences business gets increasingly competitive, innovators can’t afford to squander time or resources with commodity counsel. Our uncommon commitment to science and the law ensures that when our clients emerge from the lab — where they’ve often spent years pursuing, creating, and perfecting their inventions — they will enter the patent race armed with the full force of our Life Sciences team’s creativity and skill.

Experience

EDGE Program

When it comes to some of the trickier matters in IP and patent law, especially related to life sciences, Michael Best has a resource that few firms can match: A team of elite engineering and science students who join our firm each summer to deploy their technical knowledge in our Life Sciences practice.

Every year our EDGE students provide a wealth of insights and bring a fresh perspective that often helps uncover solutions to complex problems, even those that have vexed our most seasoned attorneys. The students receive on-the-job training and mentorship, and our firm gets an infusion of youthful energy and ideas from some of the nation’s top universities. The experience working in complex matters with highly skilled professionals often sets interns on a course for careers in IP law. Several have become patent attorneys, and many have returned to Michael Best in various roles involving patents and IP.

Sustainable Chemical Company

For nearly eight years, Michael Best’s Life Sciences attorneys have worked with a company that aims to make a real difference in the world — and we have made a real difference for that company. Using sugars and other naturally occurring substances, our client produces renewably sourced chemicals to replace phosphate in products such as automatic dishwashing detergents and corrosion inhibitors that are used in de-icing and water treatment applications.

Because the company established a relationship with Michael Best early in its history, its leaders have integrated the key steps in intellectual property protection into their thinking. As a result, our client’s work with other entities has been largely seamless, rarely raising the red flags that can hinder product development.

A Flurry of Patent Applications

Our Life Sciences attorneys knew they were in for a rough couple weeks, but felt confident they could get the job done. It was 2015, and a client was close to establishing a research and development agreement with a third party. Before the deal could be finalized, our client needed us to complete a dozen patent applications — an arduous process for one filing, let alone 12.

Our team, including patent attorneys, patent agents, and patent scientists, put their heads down and completed the task on time. The work couldn’t have been done without Michael Best’s extensive experience in life sciences and intellectual property. But equally as important was the training that helps our team conduct research in unison and write in a common voice, allowing us to quickly scale matters to teams of seven or eight lawyers.

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