Claims to Influenza Protein Sequences

The extent of patent protection for protein and peptide sequences of influenza is equally important to protection for genome nucleotide sequences.  Some types of vaccine production entail use of proteins and peptide, and they are also used in diagnostics.  For these reasons, we searched for and analyzed patents and patent applications claiming proteins and peptides derived from influenza virus.  In particular, patent claims that recite an influenza-derived amino acid (protein, peptide) sequence were found by querying a dataset of influenza protein sequences obtained from NCBI. The minimum length requirement of a match was set to 10 amino acids in order to include claimed peptides.  While the cut-off for inclusion in the following tables is 80% identity, upon inspection of the actual claims, it is clear that a large number of the matches in the 80-95% range are very short peptides and furthermore, were not derived from influenza proteins.  Thus, for the granted patents, length criteria was raised to 95% identity (all exceptions noted in the table); for patent applications, the length criteria remains 80% until a detailed inspection of the claims is undertaken.

From the following data, conclusions include:

  • Most of the patent claims are directed to short peptides;
  • Most of the patent claims reciting full-length or near full-length proteins are drawn to equine influenza virus proteins;
  • Patent claims can be open-ended with respect to sub-types of influenza proteins, such as claiming a reassortant virus in which the sequences of the six internal proteins are specified but the sequences of hemagglutinin (HA) and neuraminidase (NA) are unspecified;
  • Peptides in the claims may be used for a variety of purposes, and especially for vaccines;
  • Claims of the patent applications are similar to those from patent grants, except that the number of sequences in the claims is higher.