Drs. Dennis Liotta, Raymond Schinazi and Woo-Baeg Choi developed two major drugs to fight HIV: lamivudine (3TC) and emtricitabine (FTC) which are the treatment of choice for some 80 percent of all HIV/AIDS patients.
For faculty researchers, protecting patent rights is critical for pursuit of subsequent research and licensing to generate funds for further research. How patent rights are determined differs for the U.S. and international rights. In the states, patent ownership is determined by the date of the invention, while international rights are based on the patent filing date.
In the case of these HIV drugs, BioChem won the international rights to 3TC, while Emory University, on behalf of its researchers, secured the U.S. patent rights. BioChem licensed its international patents to British pharmaceutical company Glaxo, which then tried to grab a share of the U.S. rights.
Emory also held the patent rights for FTC and had licensed it to Burroughs Wellcome, which was later acquired by Glaxo who returned the FTC license to the university, but not critical clinical trial data that should have been returned or destroyed, but was instead used as the basis for Burroughs to seek a patent to use FTC to treat Hepatitis B.
To defend its license rights and protect its inventors’ intellectual property Emory sued Glaxo. Unlike some cases, Emory University came to the aid of its researchers, resulting in the preservation of their intellectual property rights and ensuring their continued dedication to the university.
This complex patent and litigation controversy was settled out of court after six years and millions of dollars in legal fees. Emory and its researchers kept the rights to both 3TC and FTC and the university received nearly half a billion dollars as well as an ongoing royalty stream.
By standing with their inventors, Emory, their researchers and the greater good all benefited. Emory continues to be an international leader in HIV/AIDS research and all of the researchers continue their life saving work.