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WASHINGTON (WEDNESDAY, June 8, 2022) — Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and John Cornyn (R-TX) led a bipartisan letter on Wednesday asking the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to address an issue that is causing importance of soaring drug prices. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Susan Collins (R-ME), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Mike Braun (R-IN) also joined the letter.

The senators explained that pharmaceutical companies and other large corporations sometimes artificially extend the period during which they can charge high prices by filing numerous patents on almost the same invention, thus creating a so-called patent thicket of dozens of single drug patents. These groves make it almost impossible to challenge the patents or prices of drugs covered by pharmaceutical companies. Due to the exorbitant cost of taking out each of the patents in these patent thickets, generic manufacturers are barred from entering the market, which hurts competition and raises prices for American consumers. Secondary patents, which are similar to the originals, are often less scrutinized by the Patent Office, but have an outsized effect on ordinary Americans who struggle to afford expensive drugs.

Leahy believes the Patent Office has the ability to combat this abuse, and he calls on the agency to take steps to curb this misuse of the patent system. The letter asks the Patent Office to consider specific ideas to combat abuse and “to take regulatory action to improve patent quality and eliminate large patent collections on a single invention.” The Patent Act clearly states that an inventor may obtain a Single patent for one invention, not dozens. Senators believe the Patent Office can and should stop these big corporations from undermining the patent system, impeding proper competition, stifling innovation and hurting Americans, who end up paying for it all pharmacy.

Read the full letter here.

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