LONDON ¿ The patent war between the human antibody companies, Cambridge Antibody Technology Group plc and MorphoSys AG, has escalated, with MorphoSys contesting CAT¿s U.S. patent, granted on March 23 of this year. The two are already awaiting a hearing on two European patents.

CAT, of Royston, Cambridgeshire, was granted U.S. patent 5,885,793, with broad claims directed to human antibodies to human proteins isolated by phage display, and to methods for producing human antibodies. Morphosys, of Munich, Germany, has filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia seeking a declaration that Morphosys is not infringing the CAT patent, and that the patent is invalid. In a statement, CAT said it ¿has been advised that there is no sound basis in U.S. law for this complaint.¿

CAT said neither the U.S. complaint nor the action in Germany would have any effect on the way it applies its technology. The action in Germany, initiated by CAT in September 1998, claims that Morphosys had infringed two of CAT¿s European patents. A hearing is expected to take place later this year. ¿ Nuala Moran