Drug Company to Congress: The ‘Dog Ate My Homework’

September 9, 2011
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Just about anyone who has ever been a kid in school recalls trying to make up an excuse believable enough to avoid being punished for not turning in your homework on time. An old favorite is “the dog ate my homework.”

Just about anyone who has ever been a kid in school recalls trying to make up an excuse believable enough to avoid being punished for not turning in your homework on time. An old favorite is “the dog ate my homework.”

A decade ago WilmerHale, a powerful law firm, missed a key deadline far more important than homework. It mistakenly filed a patent extension for its drug company client one day after the 60-day deadline. Rather than being penalized one letter grade like in grade school, the patent extension was rejected by the Patent and Trademark Office, causing the client to lose patent protection five years early for a drug it owned. The drug company sued its law firm, which agreed to cough up $214 million if it cannot somehow reverse the Patent Office’s extension rejection. The powerful law firm and its client have been lobbying Congress to change the law ever since.

In an amendment that is derisively being called “The Dog Ate My Homework Act,” the House agreed to change the way the 60-day patent extension filing deadline is calculated – just to benefit this one powerful law firm and its client. The Senate takes up the debate this week. If this amendment passes, consumers will pay more and have slower access to generic drugs. Let’s hope Congress leaves the law intact rather than demonstrate that rules can be broken when they are inconvenient to powerful lobbying interests.