Alongside the setbacks the Novartis seems to be receiving in its efforts to patent its anti-cancer drug Glivec, comes the news that the US Patent and Trademark Office has made a preliminary decision to revoke three fundamental patents on human embryonic stem cells granted in the last few years.
Patent examiners rejected all the claims of the three patents based on the works of James A.Thomson of the University of Wisconsin, perhaps the first to isolate human embryonic stem cells and grow them in culture.
Thomson's cells appeared to be the same as, or obvious variations of, cells described in earlier scientific papers or in patents issued to others.
The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) shocked but up a brave front saying finally they would win back the patents.
Invoking almost the same arguments used by anti-Novartis activists, the Public Patent Foundation said it believed patents issued earlier to Thomson's cells were not in public interest.
A Californian consumer group said the patents impeded that state's three billion US dollar stem cell research programme.
Actually Thomson's isolation of stem cells nine years ago did set off a big effort to turn that basic technology into treatments for various diseases. But then the Wisconsin patents were too broad and their enforcement stymied research, critics say.
Now that the patents have been revoked, things could change, they hope.
However the matter is far from over and the WARF would go all out to defend its turf, it is expected.