unenforceability assertions include allegations that someone connected with prosecution of the patent withheld relevant information from the USPTO, or made a misleading statement, during prosecution. Third parties may also raise similar claims before administrative bodies in the United States or abroad, even outside the context of litigation. Such mechanisms include re-examination, post grant review and equivalent proceedings in foreign jurisdictions, such as opposition proceedings. Such proceedings could result in revocation or amendment of our patents in such a way that they no longer cover our product candidates or competitive products. The outcome following legal assertions of invalidity and unenforceability is unpredictable. With respect to validity, for example, we cannot be certain that there is no invalidating prior art, of which we and the patent examiner were unaware during prosecution. If a defendant were to prevail on a legal assertion of invalidity and/or unenforceability, we would lose at least part, and perhaps all, of the patent protection on our product candidates. Moreover, even if not found invalid or unenforceable, the claims of our patents could be construed narrowly or in a manner that does not cover the allegedly infringing technology in question. Such a loss of patent protection would have a material adverse impact on our business.
Obtaining and maintaining our patent protection depends on compliance with various procedural, document submission, fee payment and other requirements imposed by governmental patent agencies, and our patent protection could be reduced or eliminated for noncompliance with these requirements.
Periodic maintenance fees on any issued patent are due to be paid to the USPTO and foreign patent agencies in several stages over the lifetime of the patent and, in some jurisdictions, during the pendency of a patent application. The USPTO and various foreign governmental patent agencies require compliance with a number of procedural, documentary, fee payment and other similar provisions during the patent application process. While an inadvertent lapse can in many cases be cured by payment of a late fee or by other means in accordance with the applicable rules, there are situations in which noncompliance can result in abandonment or lapse of the patent or patent application, resulting in partial or complete loss of patent rights in the relevant jurisdiction. Noncompliance events that could result in abandonment or lapse of a patent or patent application include, but are not limited to, failure to respond to official actions within prescribed time limits, non-payment of fees and failure to properly legalize and submit formal documents. In such an event, our competitors might be able to enter the market, which would have a material adverse effect on our business.
We may be subject to claims challenging the inventorship or ownership of our patents and other intellectual property.
It is our policy to enter into confidentiality and intellectual property assignment agreements with our employees, consultants, contractors and advisors. These agreements generally provide that inventions conceived by the party in the course of rendering services to us will be our exclusive property. However, these agreements may not be honored and may not effectively assign intellectual property rights to us. For example, even if we have a consulting agreement in place with an academic advisor pursuant to which such academic advisor is required to assign any inventions developed in connection with providing services to us, such academic advisor may not have the right to assign such inventions to us, as it may conflict with his or her obligations to assign all such intellectual property to his or her employing institution.
Litigation may be necessary to defend against these and other claims challenging inventorship or ownership. If we fail in defending any such claims, in addition to paying monetary damages, we may lose valuable intellectual property rights, such as exclusive ownership of, or right to use, valuable intellectual property. Such an outcome could have a material adverse effect on our business. Even if we are successful in defending against such claims, litigation could result in substantial costs and be a distraction to management and other employees.
We may be subject to claims by third parties asserting that our employees or we have misappropriated their intellectual property, or claiming ownership of what we regard as our own intellectual property.
Many of our employees were previously employed at universities or other biotechnology or pharmaceutical companies, including our competitors or potential competitors. We may also engage advisors and consultants who are concurrently employed at universities or other organizations or who perform services for other entities. Although we try to ensure that our employees, advisors and consultants do not use the proprietary information or know-how of others in their work for us, we may be subject to claims that we or our employees, advisors or consultants have used or disclosed intellectual property, including trade secrets or other proprietary information, of any such party’s former or current employer or in violation of an agreement with another party. Although we have no knowledge of any such claims being alleged to date, if such claims were to arise, litigation may be necessary to defend against any such claims.
In addition, while it is our policy to require our employees, consultants, advisors and contractors who may be involved in the development of intellectual property to execute agreements assigning such intellectual property to us, we may be unsuccessful in executing such an agreement with each party who in fact develops intellectual property that we regard as our own. Our and their assignment agreements may not be self-executing or may be breached, and we may be forced to bring claims against third parties, or defend claims they may bring against us, to determine the ownership of what we regard as our intellectual property. Similarly, we may be subject to claims that an employee, advisor or consultant performed work for us that conflicts with that person’s obligations to a