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Supreme Court ruling may help case against UW-Madison stem cell patents

Those challenging three stem cell patents at University of Wisconsin-Madison say an unrelated U.S. Supreme Court ruling helps their cause.

On Monday, the justices said Teleflex was not entitled to a patent on a car brake it developed because it came from two earlier patents, and it was an obvious move to combine them.

Two groups in California and New York said the same logic applies to James Thomson, UW-Madison scientist. They said he did the obvious when he became the first to isolate embryonic stem cells in 1998 and therefore, the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation should not hold the patents for much of its major stem cell research.

The foundation says the court ruling is complicated, and it's too early to say what the effects will be. But an intellectual property expert in Atlanta says the UW should not be hurt too badly since it also has seven other patents with 38 pending.

Last month the Patent Office rejected the UW Foundation's request for its three basic patents. That ruling is being appealed and officials say only 12 percent of patent requests get thrown out at the end.