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Stephen L. Carter

This Arthritis Drug Deserves Its Aggressive Patent Protection

AbbVie’s Humira is protected by no less than 132 patents. That’s just fine.

Extensively patented.

Extensively patented.

Photographer: Bloomberg

How many patents on a single drug is too many? Scholars, activists, and politicians have debated the question for decades. This week, a panel of the US Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit gave a firm answer. As long as the owner doesn’t use what’s known as the patent estate in a way that violates the antitrust law, wrote Judge Frank Easterbrook, “the patent laws do not set a cap.”

He’s right.