Note: This article is adapted from a longer guest post on Forbes.com last week. To view the Forbes article click here.
Inter partes review (IPR) is a process established by Congress to permit defendants in patent infringement suits to quickly and inexpensively challenge patents asserted against them in an administrative trial at the U.S. Patent Office – and this process has proved to a potent weapon for patent challengers. In the roughly three-years that inter partes review has been available, over 80 percent of the trials have found patent claims to be invalid. Some in Congress are now questioning whether the IPR rules are perhaps skewed too far in favor of the challengers.
At the time the new patent law was enacted in 2012, it was assumed that the IPR process would be used primarily against so-called “patent trolls” rather than the holders of life science patents. And it is safe to say that no one in Congress intended this process to be an opportunity for Wall Street to get into the pharmaceutical patent-busting business. But the law of unintended consequences seems to have come into play.
Over the past five months, Kyle Bass, the manager of the Texas-based Hayman Capital Management, has launched at least seven new hedge funds for investors to challenge patents on FDA approved drugs. The funds, named the “Coalition for Affordable Drugs” (Series I – VII), have launched at least 16 challenges to patents owned by Acorda Therapeutics, Shire, Jazz Pharmaceuticals, Pharmacyclics, Celgene, Biogen and Pozen.
The scheme seems too simple to be true: short the stock of a publicly traded pharmaceutical company, file an IPR with the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) that sends the stock price tumbling and then cover your short position by buying the stock at a hefty discount caused by the patent challenge.