regulations, while other patent applications in our portfolio will be subject to examination under the law and regulations, as amended by the Leahy-Smith Act. This introduces additional complexities into the prosecution and management of our portfolio.
In addition, the Leahy-Smith Act limits where a patentee may file a patent infringement suit and provides opportunities for third parties to challenge any issued patent in the USPTO. These provisions apply to all of our U.S. patents, even those issued before March 16, 2013. Because of a lower evidentiary standard in USPTO proceedings compared to the evidentiary standard in U.S. federal court necessary to invalidate a patent claim, a third party could potentially provide evidence in a USPTO proceeding sufficient for the USPTO to hold a claim invalid even though the same evidence would be insufficient to invalidate the claim if first presented in a federal court action. Accordingly, a third party may attempt to use the USPTO procedures to invalidate our patent claims because it may be easier for them to do so relative to challenging the patent in a federal court action. It is not clear what, if any, impact the Leahy-Smith Act will have on the operation of our business. However, the Leahy-Smith Act and its implementation could increase the uncertainties and costs surrounding the prosecution of our patent applications and the enforcement or defense of our issued patents, all of which could have a material adverse effect on our business and financial condition.
In addition, United States Supreme Court rulings have narrowed the scope of patent protection available in certain circumstances and weakened the rights of patent owners in certain situations. From time to time, the U.S. Supreme Court, other federal courts, the United States Congress, or the USPTO, may change the standards of patentability and any such changes could have a negative impact on our business.
A number of cases decided by the Supreme Court have involved questions of when claims reciting abstract ideas, laws of nature, natural phenomena and/or natural products are eligible for a patent, regardless of whether the claimed subject matter is otherwise novel and inventive. These cases include Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, Inc., 569 U.S. 12-398 (2013) or Myriad; Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank International, 573 U.S. 13-298 (2014); and Mayo Collaborative Services v. Prometheus Laboratories, Inc., or Prometheus, 566 U.S. 10-1150 (2012). In response to these cases, the USPTO has issued guidance to the examining corps.
The full impact of these decisions is not yet known. For example, in view of these and subsequent court decisions, the USPTO has issued various materials to patent examiners providing guidance for determining the patent eligibility of claims reciting laws of nature, natural phenomena or natural products. Our current product candidates include natural products, therefore, this decision and its interpretation by the courts and the USPTO may impact prosecution, defense and enforcement of our patent portfolio. On March 4, 2014, the USPTO issued a memorandum reflecting the USPTO’s interpretation of the cases related to patent eligibility of natural products. The March 4, 2014 memorandum was superseded by interim guidance published on December 15, 2014. Additional guidance was published in July 2015 (July 2015 Update: Subject Matter Eligibility) and May 2016 (May 2016 Subject Matter Eligibility Update). The USPTO’s interpretation of the case law and new guidelines for examination may influence, possibly adversely, prosecution and defense of certain types of claims in our portfolio.
In addition to increasing uncertainty with regard to our ability to obtain future patents, this combination of events has created uncertainty with respect to the value of patents, once obtained. Depending on these and other decisions by Congress, the federal courts and the USPTO, the laws and regulations governing patents could change or be interpreted in unpredictable ways that would weaken our ability to obtain new patents or to enforce any patents that may issue to us in the future. In addition, these events may adversely affect our ability to defend any patents that may issue in procedures in the USPTO or in courts.
Third parties may initiate legal proceedings alleging that we are infringing their intellectual property rights, the outcome of which would be uncertain and could have a material adverse effect on the success of our business.
Our commercial success depends upon our ability, and the ability of our collaborators, to develop, manufacture, market and sell our product candidates and use our proprietary technologies without infringing the proprietary rights of third parties. There is considerable intellectual property litigation in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries. While no such litigation has been brought against us and we have not been held by any court to have infringed a third party’s intellectual property rights, we cannot guarantee that our technology, products or use of our products do not infringe third-party patents.
We are aware of numerous patents and pending applications owned by third parties in the fields in which we are developing product candidates, both in the United States and elsewhere. However, we may have failed to identify relevant third-party patents or applications. For example, applications filed before November 29, 2000 and certain applications filed after that date that will not be filed outside the United States remain confidential until patents issue. Moreover, it is difficult for industry participants, including us, to identify all third-party patent rights that may be relevant to our product candidates and technologies because patent searching is imperfect due to differences in terminology among patents, incomplete databases and the difficulty in assessing the meaning of patent claims. We may fail to identify relevant patents or patent applications or may identify pending patent applications of potential interest but incorrectly predict the likelihood that such patent applications may issue with claims of relevance to our technology. In addition, we may be unaware of one or more issued patents that would be infringed by the manufacture, sale or use of a current or future product candidate, or we may incorrectly conclude that a third-party patent is invalid, unenforceable or not infringed by our activities.