Benjamin Appelbaum, Attorney at Law

Pretrial settlement resolves dispute about gene-silencing biotech

Trade secrets represent important assets to companies in New Jersey. Legal cases often reflect the value of intellectual property, like the battle between Dicerna Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Alnylam Pharmaceuticals Inc. The companies just announced a settlement involving allegations of unfair business practices and misappropriation of trade secrets. Dicerna has agreed to pay Alnylam $15 million plus stock.

The biotech companies reached the agreement three days before their dueling lawsuits were scheduled for trial. The settlement included no admissions of wrongdoing. Their dispute involved the use of technology for delivering medicine based on RNA interference or gene silencing. According to legal filings, Sirna Therapeutics Inc., a subsidiary of Merck & Co., had been the source of the disputed trade secrets. Both Alnylam and Dicerna had attempted to buy Sirna in 2013. Their bids gave them each the opportunity to examine the technology while bound by confidentiality agreements. Alnylam eventually succeeded in buying Sirna for $175 million.

In 2014, Dicerna made public a new delivery method for the gene-silencing drugs. Alnylan subsequently filed a lawsuit that accused its rival of stealing the trade secrets while reviewing Sirna's assets during its unsuccessful bid to buy the company. Dicerna responded with a lawsuit denying the accusations and alleging that Alnylan wanted to crush a competitor with its litigation.

When a complex legal dispute like this erupts, a business owner or executive often seeks legal counsel. An attorney familiar with intellectual property litigation might be able to organize documentation pertaining to ownership, licensing and confidentiality. With legal advice, a company might respond to accusations or file a lawsuit against an infringing party.

Source: Boston Globe, "Two Cambridge biotechs settle dispute over alleged theft of trade secrets", Jonathan Saltzman , April 20, 2018

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Benjamin Appelbaum, Attorney at Law - Intellectual Property

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