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After years of sparring, the federal government and Gilead Sciences will square off in a Delaware courtroom this week in a bid to settle dueling claims over the rights to a pair of groundbreaking and lucrative HIV prevention pills.

The case has drawn attention because a central theme is the extent to which taxpayer-funded research may be used by a pharmaceutical company to reap enormous profits, and whether the prices charged for any resulting medicine are out of reach for many Americans. The issue has, at times, figured in the larger national debate in the U.S. over the rising cost of prescription drugs.


Moreover, the battle appears to mark the first time that the U.S. government has filed a patent infringement lawsuit against a pharmaceutical company, according to legal experts. In general, the federal government has rarely gone to court to enforce its patents, so the outcome of the case may be watched as a litmus test for further disputes of this sort.

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