Last month, the drug company Allergan made news for a deal in which it gave six of its patents to a Native American tribe in order to avoid a patent review process called inter partes review, or IPR.
The six patents protect the blockbuster drug Restasis, a treatment for dry eyes which earns $1.5 billion in annual revenue. Generic drug companies have challenged the Restasis patents, through both IPRs and federal court litigation. Allergan agreed to pay the St. Regis Mohawk tribe $15 million annually as long as the patents are alive, because the company believes that the tribe will be immune to IPR under a legal principle known as sovereign immunity.
Allergan’s tactic has come under fire from the tech sector, from Congress, and perhaps soon, from a federal judge.