Last fall, Allergan (AGN) transferred rights for six patents to a best-selling eye drug to a Native American tribe, focusing unprecedented attention on a type of patent challenge that vexes brand-name drug makers. Called inter partes reviews, these are heard before a U.S. Patent and Trademark Office appeals board, not a court, and are generally easier and faster to pursue than more conventional patent lawsuits.

Not surprisingly, there are more of these challenges being filed than ever before.

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