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Idenix Pharmaceuticals, Inc. recently suffered a setback when the US Patent and Trademark Office Patent Trial and Appeal Board (USPTO) issued a verdict against it in the first phase of its patent dispute with Gilead Sciences Inc. (GILD - Analyst Report). The USPTO ruled that Gilead filed its application requesting a patent pertaining to hepatitis C virus therapies before Idenix Pharma. The news impacted Idenix Pharma’s shares negatively.

The USPTO ruling made Idenix Pharma the junior party and Gilead the senior party in the ongoing HCV patent related dispute. The second phase of the case is expected to begin in the second quarter of this year. In this determining phase of the HCV patent dispute, it would be decided which of the two companies was the first to invent. The company winning the second phase will clinch the case.

The silver lining for Idenix Pharma is that the junior party status assigned to it by the USPTO in the first phase will not determine the winner of the second phase and the entire case. Idenix Pharma stated in its press release that it does not expect the adverse USPTO ruling in the first phase of its HCV patent related dispute with Gilead to affect its pipeline development programs.

We note that the HCV market is highly lucrative. A sizeable population suffers from HCV the world over. However, the treated population is much lower. This leaves the field open for new treatments. Moreover, the current standard of care comes with several side effects, which make it difficult for patients to continue the treatment. Apart from Gilead and Idenix Pharma companies such as Johnson & Johnson (JNJ - Analyst Report) are also developing therapies to treat HCV.

Idenix Pharma carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold) in the short run. Gilead looks more attractive carrying a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy). Stocks like Cytokinetics, Inc. (CYTK - Snapshot Report) carry a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy) in the pharma space. 

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