According to the etc group in a recent communiqué, the “gene giants” - BASF, Monsanto, Bayer AG, Syngenta, and DuPont - have grabbed up the so-called “climate ready” genes in a total of 55 patent families. Many of the patents are said to be related to transcription factors that control stress responses, and to the proteins and genes encoding proteins that affect stress tolerance. In a discussion of several specific patents, ETC alleges that the claims encompass many plant species and, based on this, concludes that the patents are dangerously broad.
Like many reports of NGOs (non-governmental organizations) with political agendas, the etc group report is a mix of facts, mis-statements, and analysis that does not fully factor in patent law and procedures. Unfortunately, reports like this are splashed in headline news. The Washington Post featured the report in a story run on 13 May 2008. The story “Firms Seek Patents on ‘Climate Ready’ Altered Crops” was actually somewhat more balanced than its headline suggests, but I suspect that the headline has the most impact. What was still lacking in the story was a viewpoint from an expert in the patent field.
In the attached file, I’ve attempted to bring patent knowledge to bear on the report’s facts and conclusions. The basic finding is that etc group’s doomsday scenario is unwarranted. Visions of gene grabbing and holding farmers hostage are way overblown. At most, patents will be granted in only a handful of countries in the world; one major reason for this is that quite a number of countries do not allow patents on gene sequences or transformed plants. A positive fallout from the patent applications is that the sequences of the genes are published - and are free to use in countries where no patent on the gene sequence exists.
Overview patent landscapes, like this one by the etc group, are helpful for setting out the lay of the land. Conclusions about the impact of patents however, require more detailed investigation and expertise than the etc group demonstrated. In fact, we find that a detailed analysis leads to very different conclusions. In my view, it’s important - even critical - that we do not blindly accept the conclusions, but apply our knowledge to careful analysis and spreading the word.
Read or download etc climate gene commentaryTags: gene patents;genes
Going forward, this blog will concentrate on news and materials that are useful for my clients and others with an interest in intellectual property and its impacts, but without formal training. The focus here will be on life sciences, although many of the posts will be applicable to all scientific and engineering fields.
Some specific areas to be covered include:
- agriculture-related patent news;
- health-related patent news, especially as it pertains to diseases of developing countries;
- availability of patent data around the world;
- patent searching;
- ways and reasons to use and evaluate patents;
- news and information for legal fields related to intellectual property (e.g., contracts and licenses);
- notable resources and organizations; plus
- the occasional humorous item or whatever else strikes my fancy (this is called editorial privilege).
I welcome feedback. Please email me at patent_maze(at)cougarlaw.com.No tags for this post.
After a long hiatus, "Navigating the Patent Maze" blawg is returning - and with a new format. Posts will be mainly directed to providing information and identifying resources of interest to the types of clients serviced by Cougar Patent Law — very small biotechnology companies and non-profit research institutes.
Most patent-related "blawgs" appear to be written for patent practitioners and others well-versed, or well-steeped, in patent law. Yet, many in the biotechnology industry — such as business developers, venture capitalists, scientists, and technology transfer specialists — are also involved with or affected by patents and related areas of law but without very many self-help resources. In my experience, these groups cannot always afford to turn their projects and problems over to lawyers; some don’t even know that they have projects and issues that need addressing. For those that take the time to visit this blawg, I hope that what you learn here increases your ability to deal with both everyday and more esoteric patent matters. That is how I measure the success of this blawg.No tags for this post.
This blog has been going for nearly a year and a half. When I started blogging the intent was for it to be syndicated to the front page of the website where I worked at the time. Well, that didn’t happen. I continued anyway hoping I’d reach similar users. Also I was keeping it up to support some grant requests submitted with my economist colleagues. Well, those didn’t happen either. So a few days ago, I found myself wondering why I was spending the time blogging. As I explained in the previous post, blogging takes a fair modicum of time and effort. Time I should be spending in trying to promote my law services. And my web site Cougar Patent Law is where my efforts are going to be from now on. There is a News page there that will be similar to this blog, but not nearly as detailed and geared more for clients. I hope you’ll visit it.
I will leave all the posts here at this site for reference, but will not be adding to it in the foreseeable future. Maybe things will change if I win a big lottery prize!
Cheers to all and thanks for visiting.No tags for this post.
Astute readers may remember that I’ve said this before. Other legal bloggers will (hopefully) sympathize, knowing that do post an entry takes about 3-4 times the amount of reading plus typing time. When I find an interesting item, I typically research it for accuracy, additional facts and info, and consider how it fits into the patent (and PBR or PVPC) world. As another IP blogger said, "kiss those billable hours goodbye." Well, yes, he was right - I will attest to it.
During my absence of the last month, I have finally finished assembling and launching my work web site: Cougar Patent Law. For a non-web designer and HTML language neophyte, this task, while made easier by the purchase of the template, still took an inordinate amount of time. Additionally, my economist mate (we are both Aussies in fact) rose to the level of my "worst nightmare" and enlisted my assistance in drafting a chapter for an economics handbook. All I can say to him is payback is a b—-. On top of this, I got a request to help an agency pro bono - through PIIPA (link on sidebar). Lucky for me, the issue was quite easy to research and answer. Needless to say, my work-related reading has suffered in the last month or so.
While these are reasons for the dearth of posts, they are not excuses. I have caught up a bit on reading, formed some ideas for posts, and ready to get going again. Meanwhile, I hope that I haven’t lost too many readers. Cheers to all.
P.S. For you Mac users out there, I have fixed the post "About Me" so it doesn’t look like gibberish to you. Please let me know if there is still a problem.No tags for this post.
In PHOSITA, the guest blogger presented some interesting stories about the inventors and the genesis of a variety of inventions, such as Ivory soap, the TV remote control, and the rickshaw. My favorite is about how the inventor of the shopping cart promoted its acceptance. The postings are in three parts.
Read part 1.
Read part 2.
Read part 3.
The so-called “junk DNA” patents are controversial, and the meaning of the claims is contentious. In this report, the claims of the United States patent are dissected and interpreted according to current U.S. patent law. As discussed, the patents disclose an invention that uses polymorphic sequences in non-coding regions to assess the presence of a polymorphism in an exon of a linked coding sequence. In contrast to the assertion that the patent claims all non-coding region polymorphism, the requirement in the claims for linkage of the two polymorphisms limits the scope of the patent.
Read the report here: simons_patents_analysisf.pdfNo tags for this post.