In their quest for new and more potent drugs, pharmaceutical companies look to their scientists for inspiration. Once a discovery is made, there is often a rush to patent as much of the discovery as it allows and then some. Patent practitioners seek to protect new compounds by filing patent applications in which, once granted, broad genus claims protect not only the compounds actually made by the scientists, but also other compounds of similar chemical structure, which, if they are made, would be predicted to have similar properties. This type of broad claiming generally rewards the discovery of a hitherto unknown class of compounds identified by a common chemical structure and can protect many hundreds of thousands of compounds. However, available human and financial resources often limit the number of compounds claimed that can actually be made and tested. Given that the Patent Act confers on an inventor the right to a monopoly for 20 years, where should the line be drawn in terms of extending claim protection beyond the initial discovery?
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