(Reuters) - The Native American tribe that agreed to hold patents for the drug company Allergan Plc in an attempt to shield them from U.S. administrative review is also doing so for a technology firm.
According to U.S. Patent and Trademark Office records, SRC Labs LLC on Aug. 2 transferred around 40 patents to the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe.
Allergan announced on Friday it had reached a deal to transfer several patents relating to the dry-eye medication Restasis to the tribe in exchange for ongoing payments.
The drug company claims the tribe’s status as a sovereign nation means the Restasis patents will be immune to review by the U.S. Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB). Generic companies often challenge brand-name drug patents before the board.
SRC’s similar agreement suggests the tactic of shielding patents by transferring them to a sovereign tribe will extend beyond the pharmaceutical sector.
The deals announced so far “are just the tip of the iceberg,” said David Pridham, chief executive of Dominion Harbor Group, a Dallas-based firm that advises patent owners on monetization efforts.
“There are dozens and dozens of tribes talking to law firms about this structure,” he said.
Headed by Dallas lawyer, entrepreneur and investment manager Brandon Freeman, SRC Labs holds patents previously awarded to SRC Computers, a company founded by supercomputer pioneer Seymour Cray just before his 1996 death.
Freeman declined to comment.
Similar patent-holding entities often engage in aggressive litigation against larger corporations seeking licensing fees or damages for infringement. The defendants frequently respond by initiating PTAB proceedings to invalidate the patents at issue.
In a document posted on its website, the tribe did not name SRC but said it had a deal with an unnamed tech company along with Allergan. According to the tribe, Dallas law firm Shore Chan DePumpo was planning to enforce the tech company’s patents in court.
“Right now a federal court case is being prepared for filing,” the tribe said, adding that it “expects that it will earn a significant amount of money through the Shore firm’s enforcement of the patents in federal court.”
Shore Chan DePumpo was the architect of Allergan’s deal with the tribe and is advising the tribe on its efforts to cut similar deals.
The law firm declined to comment, and a spokesman for the tribe did not respond to a request for comment.
Reporting by Jan Wolfe; editing by Anthony Lin and Dan Grebler