LONDON ¿ The patents dispute between two of Europe¿s leading antibody companies rages on, as MorphoSys AG claimed ascendancy following the latest ruling in the dispute over Cambridge Antibody Technology Group plc¿s (CAT) Griffiths patent and the dismissal of CAT¿s second attempt to bring a suit to court in San Diego alleging infringement of its Winter II U.S. patent.

CAT said it would continue its court actions against Munich-based MorphoSys.

Giving a very upbeat assessment of the significance of these two events at a teleconference, Simon Moroney, CEO of MorphoSys, said they were ¿very good news¿ for MorphoSys. ¿These developments, especially in respect to Griffiths, are approaching what we have long worked toward.¿

On Griffiths, he said, ¿It looks more likely than ever that our use of MorphoSys¿ HuCAL [antibody libraries] will be adjudged not to infringe Griffiths.¿

The judge in the district court of Washington, D.C., considered seven motions, two of infringement and five of invalidity, after a jury was unable to reach a decision in April. He found in favor of CAT, of Melbourn, UK, on four of MorphoSys¿ invalidity assertions and did not rule on the fifth.

While the judge did not make a final ruling on infringement his preliminary finding stated, ¿MorphoSys should prevail on the issue of infringement.¿ This finding centers on whether or not HuCAL antibody libraries are derived from humans. The court stated, ¿No reasonable jury could find that the HuCAL library, whose starting point is theoretical analysis of data, is derived from a human.¿

However, the judge did not make a formal ruling because, he said, ¿It is not clear that CAT has been fully heard on the issue.¿

Moroney said MorphoSys¿ lawyers would be seeking a status conference with the judge and added, ¿We eagerly await the final ruling.¿

In a press release David Chiswell, CEO of CAT, said, ¿We welcome the court¿s ruling generally in favor of the validity of the Griffiths patent and we will continue to present our view to the judge that MorphoSys [does] indeed infringe the patent.¿

CAT¿s Winter II patent was granted in the U.S. on June 19, and CAT¿s first attempt to file a suit, with the UK Medical Research Council and the San Diego-based Scripps Research Institute, against MorphoSys in San Diego was dismissed later that month. Between then and the dismissal of the second suit earlier this month, MorphoSys filed a suit in Washington, D.C., claiming non-infringement and invalidity of the Winter II patents. The company is still waiting to see if this will be accepted.

In Europe the dispute between the two companies on Winter II is in abeyance pending the outcome in the U.S., while a third dispute, relating to the McCafferty patents, is in abeyance awaiting the rulings on Griffiths and Winter II.

Emma Palmer, analyst at WestLB Panmure in London, said, ¿These are complex disputes which have the potential to run on for a significant period of time.¿

Moroney would not comment on whether an out-of-court settlement with CAT was now a possibility.