NEW YORK—Hailing it as a groundbreaking discovery with far-ranging benefits, pharmaceutical company Pfizer announced a new breakthrough Friday that vastly extends the lifespan of near-death patents. “Ensuring that every one of these patents lives a long and fruitful life is our highest priority, and we’re committed to doing everything in our power to make sure they survive,” said Pfizer spokeswoman Ellen Hilty, noting that the drug manufacturer with more than $50 billion in annual revenues had assembled elite teams of experts and dedicated years of intense work to finding a way to prolong the lives of dying patents. “At Pfizer, patents always come first. Our primary goal is, and always will be, keeping them alive and healthy for as long as possible. And that’s why we couldn’t be happier to announce this wonderful development.” Hilty added that nothing causes Pfizer officials more distress than seeing a once robust patent expire at a young age, a “terrible tragedy” that allows dozens of generic manufacturers to copy it and offer pharmaceuticals to customers far more cheaply.