The Catholic University of America

CUA Law professor Elizabeth Winston discussed Sovereignty 'Sham' on Native America Calling, a daily call-in show funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. She discussed the benefits and drawbacks of using tribal sovereignty to provide immunity for patentees. See below.

Sovereignty “sham”?

The St. Regis Mohawk Tribe is embarking on a novel business partnership with a pharmaceutical company. The company pays the tribe to hold the patents for a profitable drug. In exchange, the tribe’s sovereign immunity prevents generic drug makers from getting at the drug’s formula. Some members of Congress are now drafting laws to prevent such agreements. The tribe is also suing business giants Microsoft and Amazon for patent infringement. It’s one of several instances in which tribes leverage sovereignty in business deals. Is this a new and innovative revenue-generating model? Or is the idea headed for a legal defeat? We’ll try and sort out the prospects.


Elizabeth Winston – professor of law at The Catholic University of America at the Columbus School of Law

Matthew Compton – attorney at Prebeg, Faucett & Abbott PLLC

David Petite (Fond du Lac Chippewa Tribe) – inventor and founder of Native American Intellectual Property Enterprise Council 

Click here to access to the episode.

Mary G. Leary   

Professor Elizabeth I. Winston's
Areas of Expertise

Intellectual Property

Patent Law

Trademark Law


For additional information about our professors' areas of speciality, see the Catholic University Experts page.