Many companies have encountered significant problems in protecting and defending intellectual property rights in foreign jurisdictions. The legal systems of certain countries, particularly certain developing countries, do not favor the enforcement of patents, trade secrets and other intellectual property protection, particularly those relating to biotechnology products, which could make it difficult for us to stop the infringement of our patents, if pursued and obtained, or marketing of competing products in violation of our proprietary rights generally. Proceedings to enforce our patent rights in foreign jurisdictions could result in substantial costs and divert our efforts and attention from other aspects of our business, could put our patents at risk of being invalidated or interpreted narrowly and our patent applications at risk of not issuing and could provoke third parties to assert claims against us. We may not prevail in any lawsuits that we initiate and the damages or other remedies awarded, if any, may not be commercially meaningful. Accordingly, our efforts to enforce our intellectual property rights around the world may be inadequate to obtain a significant commercial advantage from the intellectual property that we develop or license.
Issued patents covering AVXS‑101 could be found invalid or unenforceable if challenged in court. We may not be able to protect our trade secrets in court.
If one of our licensing partners or we initiate legal proceedings against a third party to enforce a patent covering AVXS‑101, assuming such a patent has or does issue, the defendant could counterclaim that the patent covering our product candidate is invalid or unenforceable. Presently, although patents licensed from REGENXBIO have issued, none of the patent applications licensed to us from NCH have issued as patents. In patent litigation in the United States, defendant counterclaims alleging invalidity or unenforceability are commonplace. Grounds for a validity challenge could be an alleged failure to meet any of several statutory requirements, including lack of novelty, obviousness, written description, non‑enablement or failure to claim patent eligible subject matter. Grounds for an unenforceability assertion could be an allegation that someone connected with prosecution of the patent withheld information material to patentability from the USPTO, or made a misleading statement, during prosecution. Third parties also may raise similar claims before administrative bodies in the United States or abroad, even outside the context of litigation. Such mechanisms include re‑examination, post grant review, inter partes review and equivalent proceedings in foreign jurisdictions. Such proceedings could result in the revocation or cancellation of or amendment to our patents in such a way that they no longer cover AVXS‑101. The outcome following legal assertions of invalidity and unenforceability is unpredictable. With respect to the validity question, for example, we cannot be certain that there is no invalidating prior art, of which the patent examiner and we or our licensing partners were unaware during prosecution. If a defendant were to prevail on a legal assertion of invalidity or unenforceability, we could lose at least part, and perhaps all, of the patent protection on AVXS‑101. Such a loss of patent protection could have a material adverse impact on our business.
In addition to the protection afforded by patents, we rely on trade secret protection and confidentiality agreements to protect proprietary know‑how that is not patentable or that we elect not to patent, processes for which patents are difficult to enforce and any other elements of AVXS‑101 discovery and development processes that involve proprietary know‑how, information or technology that is not covered by patents. However, trade secrets can be difficult to protect and some courts inside and outside the United States are less willing or unwilling to protect trade secrets. We seek to protect our proprietary technology and processes, in part, by entering into confidentiality agreements with our employees, consultants, scientific advisors and contractors. However, we may not be able to prevent the unauthorized disclosure or use of our technical know‑how or other trade secrets by the parties to these agreements, despite the existence generally of confidentiality agreements and other contractual restrictions. Monitoring unauthorized uses and disclosures is difficult and we do not know whether the steps we have taken to protect our proprietary technologies will be effective. If any of the collaborators, scientific advisors, employees and consultants who are parties to these agreements breaches or violates the terms of any of these agreements, we may not have adequate remedies for any such breach or violation. As a result, we could lose our trade secrets.
We cannot guarantee that we have entered into such agreements with each party that may have or have had access to our trade secrets or proprietary technology and processes. We also seek to preserve the integrity and confidentiality of our data and trade secrets by maintaining physical security of our premises and physical and electronic security of our information technology systems. While we have confidence in these individuals, organizations and systems, agreements or security measures, they may still be breached, and we may not have adequate remedies for any breach.