By Donald Zuhn --
Earlier this year, we released our annual list of top biotech/pharma stories (see "Top Stories of 2009: #4 to #1"). At the top of our list, we placed the biotech/pharma industry's attempts to recover from the Great Recession. Back in February of 2009, we noted that almost a third of the Biotechnology Industry Organization's membership had less than six months of cash on hand, 45% had less than one year of cash remaining, and only 10% of the 370 publicly-traded biotechnology companies reported a positive income. Last April, the National Venture Capital Association (NVCA) and PricewaterhouseCoopers announced that venture capitalists had invested $3.0 billion in 549 deals in the first quarter of 2009, a 47% decrease in terms of dollars invested and a 37% decrease in terms of the number of deals as compared with the fourth quarter of 2008 -- levels of venture funding that had not been seen since 1997.
As 2009 wore on, some of the negative indicators appeared to be giving way to more positive signs. Last August, Nashville-based Cumberland Pharmaceuticals snapped a two-year industry dry spell when it conducted an initial public offering (IPO) that raised $85 million, and in October, Talecris Biotherapeutics and Omeros Corp. conducted their own IPOs, raising $950 million and $68.2 million, respectively. Other biotech/pharma companies have filed for IPOs since then (although a few recent biotech/pharma IPOs have produced somewhat disappointing results). With respect to venture funding, VentureDeal's latest quarterly VC funding report indicated that biotech funding increased a "whopping" 65% during the fourth quarter of 2009 (see "VentureDeal Report Shows 65% Increase in Fourth Quarter Biotech Venture Funding"), and while the NVCA's report for the same period was less promising, the NVCA noted that the life sciences sector received the highest level of funding when compared with the other sixteen sectors the organization tracks.
However, while IPOs and venture funding levels speak to the impact of the recession on the biotech/pharma industry as a whole, these indicators provide little information regarding the impact of the recession on biotech/pharma patent practice in particular. In order to get a better handle on the impact of the recession on biotech/pharma patent practice, we have begun to analyze data available at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office website and other sources. While this analysis progresses, we thought it might be a good idea to solicit comments from Patent Docs readers who have responded in the past to our call for an identification of "bad" patents (see "A Simple Question about Patent Quality") and ways to address the problems facing the USPTO after Tafas/GSK (see "Post-GSK: Where Do We Go from Here?").
So, our question to readers is this: How has the recession impacted your patent practice? In particular, has it changed the way you prosecute applications or litigate cases, and if so, how? We would appreciate any and all comments you may have on the topic. You may feel free to provide such comments in response to this post, e-mail them to the Patent Docs Gmail address (PatentDocs@gmail.com), or e-mail them directly to me (email@example.com). If you would prefer that we withhold your name from any future posts on this subject, just let us know. Over the next few weeks, we will collect your comments, perhaps post a few short surveys, and then report back with the results. We thank you in advance for the help.