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Patents On Synthetic Life "Extremely Damaging"

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the that-gene-right-there-that-one's-mine dept.

Biotech 171

An anonymous reader writes "Pioneer and veteran of genomics Professor John Sulston is extremely concerned about the patent applications on the first synthetic life-form. The patents were filed by the Venter Institute following the announcement of the first life-form to have a synthetic genome. Sulston claims the patent is excessively broad and would stifle research and development in the field by creating an effective monopoly on synthetic life and related molecular techniques. Prof. Sulston had previously locked horns ten years ago with Dr. Craig Venter over intellectual property issues surrounding the human genome project. Fortunately, Sulston won the last round and the HGP is freely accessible — Venter had wanted to charge for access, just as he now wishes to make 'synthetic life' proprietary."

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Exter ... ? (1, Funny)

Skapare (16644) | more than 4 years ago | (#32334368)

Somehow, as I was reading it, that title seemed to have the word "exterminate" in it. But maybe not.

Re:Exter ... ? (1)

Thanshin (1188877) | more than 4 years ago | (#32334440)

Somehow, as I was reading it, that title seemed to have the word "exterminate" in it. But maybe not.

You mean "Extereminate" right?

Re:Exter ... ? (1)

Alphathon (1634555) | more than 4 years ago | (#32334812)

No, I'm fairly certain it was meant to be exterminate, seeing as extereminate isn't a word. If there was a joke in there somewhere then I missed it I'm afraid.

Re:Exter ... ? (2, Informative)

Thanshin (1188877) | more than 4 years ago | (#32335556)

There was one, before the typo in the news title was corrected.

No, it was book title confusion. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32335996)

"Next" is the book by Michael Crichton whose plot reality seems to be stealing from. "Extereminate" is one of Stephen King's lesser known novels about exterminating people via insemination.

Re:No, it was book title confusion. (1)

Thanshin (1188877) | more than 4 years ago | (#32336192)

And "Twilight" is one of Some Guy's* lesser known novels about exterminating people via vampiric homosexuality.

*: I refuse to search the name of the author of Sparkly Pedos.

Time to go.. (5, Insightful)

drewhk (1744562) | more than 4 years ago | (#32334380)

.. and patent myself before it is too late!

Re:Time to go.. (1)

drewhk (1744562) | more than 4 years ago | (#32334398)

And at the same time, I may pantent you as well.

Re:Time to go.. (2, Funny)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 4 years ago | (#32334520)

And at the same time, I may pantent you as well.

Is that when, instead of pulling someone's pants down, you just rip the pockets off? :p

Re:Time to go.. (1)

drewhk (1744562) | more than 4 years ago | (#32334584)

For this insult, I patent YOU as well. That will teach you a lesson.

Re:Time to go.. (1)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 4 years ago | (#32334608)

OH NOES! [nocookie.net]

Re:Time to go.. (2, Informative)

confused one (671304) | more than 4 years ago | (#32334772)

It's too late. There's already large sections of your genome that have been patented by various companies.

Re:Time to go.. (1)

drewhk (1744562) | more than 4 years ago | (#32335058)

Then it's time to mutate!

BRAAAIINS!

Re:Time to go.. (1)

Jurily (900488) | more than 4 years ago | (#32335142)

It's too late. There's already large sections of your genome that have been patented by various companies.

Mom has prior art.

Re:Time to go.. (1)

confused one (671304) | more than 4 years ago | (#32335462)

But Mom is going to have to spend millions in litigation costs to prove she has the rights to your (and her) genome.

Re:Time to go.. (1)

Creepy (93888) | more than 4 years ago | (#32335752)

that would infringe on my patent on you - I'm filing suit in Eastern Texas today.

Re:Time to go.. (1)

drewhk (1744562) | more than 4 years ago | (#32335916)

Sorry, but you missed my most recent post, that I started to mutate -- your patent claims are invalid now.

Re:Time to go.. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32336236)

.. and patent myself before it is too late!

I'm afraid third party can prove prior art existence.

Re:Time to go.. (2, Insightful)

drewhk (1744562) | more than 4 years ago | (#32336570)

No, we will form a patent pool. We call it F.A.M.I.L.I.

Re:Time to go.. (1)

dwiget001 (1073738) | more than 4 years ago | (#32337010)

Wouldn't that more correctly be "patent gene pool"?

Shew! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32334396)

It's a good thing Newton didn't patent gravity. Think of the licensing fees we'd all owe his estate!

Re:Shew! (1)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | more than 4 years ago | (#32335126)

Think of the licensing fees we'd all owe his estate!

0 dollars?

Re:Shew! (1)

nextekcarl (1402899) | more than 4 years ago | (#32335760)

But that would be a lot of zeros!

I couldn't think of a car analogy (1)

Mattskimo (1452429) | more than 4 years ago | (#32334414)

So here is a music-industry one. This is a bit like the Beatles attempting to copyright the concept of music made by a band comprised of a lead guitar, rhythm guitar, bass and drums, rather than their songs.

Re:I couldn't think of a car analogy (3, Informative)

master5o1 (1068594) | more than 4 years ago | (#32334504)

It's like a company that tries to patent an object that has four wheels, a steering wheel, a wind shield and an engine.

Re:I couldn't think of a car analogy (1)

Creepy (93888) | more than 4 years ago | (#32335930)

The Beatles would have problems with lots and lots of prior art in that case, where this isn't the case. If you want a music analogy, I'd say this is more like Les Paul patenting all music made with electrically amplified instruments.

DAMMIT, SUPREME COURT (-1, Offtopic)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 4 years ago | (#32334448)

Why the fuck didn't you release the decision on Bilski v Kappos yesterday?!?!?! It's been freakin' months! DAMN YOUS!!!! DAMN YOUS ALL TA HELLLLLL!

Note: I am aware that the Bilski case has nothing to do with TFA.

This ain't a patent troll (2, Insightful)

BasilBrush (643681) | more than 4 years ago | (#32334450)

Venter Institute have been working on this for 15 years. Allowing them to get a temporary monopoly to use or licence elements of the fruit of their R&D so they can get a return on their investment is exactly what the patent system was intended for.

Maybe in a way they are (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32334496)

If their terms are as broad as we are accustomed to from software patents, then I'd say yes, they are trolls and deserve the crowbar treatment

Re:Maybe in a way they are (1)

jgagnon (1663075) | more than 4 years ago | (#32335296)

What if they own the patent on the crowbar treatment? You'd have to pay them for every beating they receive.

Re:This ain't a patent troll (4, Insightful)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 4 years ago | (#32334500)

Sometimes the depth of human greed astonishes me. This is something which, if openly available to the right people and if they were allowed to work on/improve on it as they saw fit, could literally change almost everything.

Keeping it locked behind a patent is greed at its worst (or finest, depending on which side you are on.) I'm all for getting paid for your ideas, but some things (like, oh I don't know, synthetic life) should belong to the entire human race, not Joe McBob who can only see lawsuits and dollar signs.

Re:This ain't a patent troll (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32334546)

I'm all for getting paid for your ideas, but some things (like, oh I don't know, synthetic life) should belong to the entire human race, not Joe McBob who can only see lawsuits and dollar signs.

Are you saying that synthetic life as a whole should belong to everyone, or that all synthetic life should belong to everyone? I agree that making a patent too broad is a bad thing, but I don't see how all synthetic life should be patent free any more than saying electronics belong to everyone and should be patent free. Patents good, overreaching patents bad.

Re:This ain't a patent troll (4, Insightful)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 4 years ago | (#32334562)

Sorry, I should have been more clear...I meant that the guy should be keeping his patent scope limited to exactly what he did, as opposed to making it so broad as to cover synthetic life in general.

My bad -_-;;

Re:This ain't a patent troll (4, Interesting)

A beautiful mind (821714) | more than 4 years ago | (#32334820)

I propose a viewpoint. As opposed to keeping discussion specific to individual patents or details of a certain case, we should talk about nuking the whole patent system entirely. It is a net loss. It is an archaic system based on naíve economic ideas. It is time to euthanize it.

Re:This ain't a patent troll (2, Interesting)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 4 years ago | (#32334904)

That's the thing though...if people applied for patents that were limited in scope and describe only their invention, the system would be working exactly as it was intended to. Unfortunately, greed (on applicant's part) and complacency (on the USPTO's part) prevent this.

Re:This ain't a patent troll (3, Insightful)

A beautiful mind (821714) | more than 4 years ago | (#32335988)

This is like saying that without greed, communism would work :)

In other words, the patent scheme is broken at it's core.

Re:This ain't a patent troll (1)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 4 years ago | (#32336218)

In other words, the patent scheme is broken at it's core.

It's not the patent system that is broken. It's the people who use it that are broken. You can't fault the USPTO when people submit insanely broad patents that have nearly nothing to do with their actual invention. (You can, of course, blame the USPTO when they actually GRANT those patents, but that's a different conversation)

Re:This ain't a patent troll (1)

rattaroaz (1491445) | more than 4 years ago | (#32336462)

It's not the patent system that is broken. It's the people who use it that are broken.

Isn't that the basis of "guns don't kill people, people kill people" argument? If a system exists where people are going to break it, and requires that people will play nice to each other, then I think the system truly IS broken. Because you just can't expect people to naturally play nice, and not game the system.

With regard to your earlier post, eliminating patents would screw over the honest patent appliers. Status quo screws over everyone.

Re:This ain't a patent troll (1)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 4 years ago | (#32336712)

Isn't that the basis of "guns don't kill people, people kill people" argument? If a system exists where people are going to break it, and requires that people will play nice to each other, then I think the system truly IS broken.

So you blame a system as being broken when it's the people that do the breaking? That doesn't make any sense.

That's like saying cars are a flawed method of transportation because most people drive like assholes. That isn't the car's fault, it's the asshole's fault.

Re:This ain't a patent troll (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32336710)

there is one simple test that the patent system should add to the patent accepting procedure:

can I follow the procedure described within the patent and obtain a result that fulfill all the patent claims?

Re:This ain't a patent troll (1, Interesting)

asukasoryu (1804858) | more than 4 years ago | (#32335344)

It is an archaic system based on naíve economic ideas. It is time to fix it.

Counterpoint: Average Joe invents something. Corporation X sees invention and masses produces it for less than Average Joe can. Corporation makes millions. Average Joe sees no profits from his invention. Haven't you seen Flash of Genius about the invention of windshield wipers? The system definitely has flaws, but doing without is not a good idea.

Re:This ain't a patent troll (2, Insightful)

A beautiful mind (821714) | more than 4 years ago | (#32335960)

Having a good idea is usually common, actually carrying it to fruition is a lot harder. I think that your viewpoint that we need patents to protect solitary inventors from a hypothetical scenario of a greedy corporation duplicating someone's idea well enough, is flawed. Sure, it's possible that it has happened or would happen to people, but we should be optimizing for the common case. Polihistors are a thing of the past, solitary invention is exceedingly rare. Inventions are evolutionary in the sense that it's a long line of small steps of improvements.

Your scenario of a big evil company swooping down and taking the lone hero's invention is more psychological than based on real concern. A big soul sucking company would probably hire the guy who invented stuff with a generous enough salary. He is the expert on the thing after all, since he managed to innovate in the field. The guy wouldn't get millions of dollars, but he would make a decent living, a good enough outcome for most people. Noone needs millions of dollars for a comfortable living.

The point is, even solitary inventors profit from innovation without having the protection of an artificial monopoly on abstract things that the patent system is. The vastly more common case is unfortunately the damage resulting from any patent system: patent trolls are not the problem I'm talking about, it's just a sympthom. The problem is slowing down the exchange of ideas and the feedback loop of step by step invention. A patent stops that loop. More than 99% of all patents are for small improvements on the already established knowledge base. You'd be hard pressed to find examples of innovation that wouldn't have been invented until the expiration of the patent describing something and are still useful after the expiry of the patent (maybe except cases where a patent retarded innovation so badly that most progress stopped in a field due to legal concerns).

We need to get the legal system out of the free proliferation of ideas. It's not only software patents or patents on living organisms that are the problem, it's the fundamental misunderstanding of how innovation occurs.

Re:This ain't a patent troll (0)

TheLuggage2008 (1199251) | more than 4 years ago | (#32336384)

Your scenario of a big evil company swooping down and taking the lone hero's invention is more psychological than based on real concern. A big soul sucking company would probably hire the guy who invented stuff with a generous enough salary. He is the expert on the thing after all, since he managed to innovate in the field. The guy wouldn't get millions of dollars, but he would make a decent living, a good enough outcome for most people. Noone needs millions of dollars for a comfortable living.

So wrong... [findlaw.com]

And as far as no one needing millions of dollars for a comfortable living, if a someone invents something worthwhile, like the above saw guard, they deserve to make millions from it a whole lot more than some faceless corporation that steals the guy's invention deserves to. With worthwhile inventions millions will be made; companies don't have some exclusive right to be the only entities making fortunes.

Re:This ain't a patent troll (1)

lymond01 (314120) | more than 4 years ago | (#32336480)

Someone mentioned that one of the original ideas behind the patent was not to "protect the little guy" but to allow trade secrets to be revealed without potential loss to the company who has them. Similar concept, of course, just on a grander scale. Trade secrets could stifle innovation -- at least if the idea is out there, people can license it and invent off of it.

I mean, look at the formula for Coca Cola. How many great new inventions could have been created had the details of that syrupy goodness been unleashed (sorry..licensed) upon the world?

Re:This ain't a patent troll (2, Insightful)

Man On Pink Corner (1089867) | more than 4 years ago | (#32336676)

Haven't you seen Flash of Genius about the invention of windshield wipers?

Yes. You should not get $20 million dollars for being the first person to think "Gee, I wish my windshield wipers had more speeds."

Re:This ain't a patent troll (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32336910)

Reality: Average Joe invents something. Average Joe has the foresight to patent it. Corporation X sees invention and mass-produces it for less than Average Joe can. Average Joe sues Corporation X, but is told that his estimated legal costs for the case will be $1,500,000 once they have done stalling and playing games. Corporation X offers to buy Joe's patent for a pitance, and Joe relctantly agrees.

Re:This ain't a patent troll (1)

NewWorldDan (899800) | more than 4 years ago | (#32336378)

Quite the contrary, there are some areas that desparately need the patent system to continue and flourish. The medical industry in general, and the pharmaceutical industry specifically are a good example. R&D is extremely expensive and depends on the windfall of blockbuster drugs to sustain it. Drugs and medical devices are extrodinarily expensive to develop, but fairly easy to replicate. 20 years isn't that big of a price to pay.

Software and engineering in general are bad areas for patents. Rarely is anything revolutionary generated, and nearly every software patent should be obvious to one skilled in the art. Furthermore, it is a case of many people simultaneously and independantly solving the same problems, further proof that these things should fail the obiousness test. The issue then, as I see it, is simply protecting the fruits of one's labors and that is easily handled by copyright.

My biggest complaint is that the patent system seems to not merely protect the how, but also the what. My second biggest complaint is that patents are unreadable gobbledygook.

Re:This ain't a patent troll (1)

gandhi_2 (1108023) | more than 4 years ago | (#32334896)

if there was no chance for a profit, it is unlikely that Venter would have spend the last 15 years and shitloads of money on the project.

Re:This ain't a patent troll (3, Interesting)

arth1 (260657) | more than 4 years ago | (#32334996)

if there was no chance for a profit, it is unlikely that Venter would have spend the last 15 years and shitloads of money on the project.

Correct.
Which would have given others with less money more of a chance to work on this, without feeling it would be fruitless to compete against the big pockets and risk being sued into oblivion.

Re:This ain't a patent troll (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32336446)

if there was no chance for a profit, it is unlikely that Venter would have spend the last 15 years and shitloads of money on the project.

[Citation needed]

Re:This ain't a patent troll (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32335174)

Are you saying that the MILLIONS of dollars that where invested in this project should just be taken as a loss to the company? Why would ANYONE in the private sector invest in any biological or any research if it can be taken away from them on a whim?

Re:This ain't a patent troll (1)

Rob Kaper (5960) | more than 4 years ago | (#32336396)

some things (like, oh I don't know, synthetic life) should belong to the entire human race

What's the incentive to invest private funds and time into science if you cannot profit from the results just because the entire human race benefits from them?

Re:This ain't a patent troll (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32334514)

Except patents were designed to protect specific objects, tools, and machines with specific functions--like the iPhone, Droid, cotton gin, etc. not fundamental biochemical interactions. If they're building a specific, non-cognizant organism for a specific purpose, ok; if they're going after the whole concept of synthetic life, no.

Re:This ain't a patent troll (1)

Creepy (93888) | more than 4 years ago | (#32336018)

heh - objects, tools, machines, and LINES OF CODE - don't forget that one, as it seems to be f*cking with my coding every day. 6 lines of obvious software shader code covered by a patent... grr

World domination. Finally. (5, Insightful)

Errol backfiring (1280012) | more than 4 years ago | (#32334542)

So if you study steel, all steel structures should be yours? And if you study the world...

Re:World domination. Finally. (3, Funny)

couchslug (175151) | more than 4 years ago | (#32334850)

"So if you study steel, all steel structures should be yours? And if you study the world..."

I'll study poontang, thank you very much!

Re:World domination. Finally. (1)

simoncpu was here (1601629) | more than 4 years ago | (#32335160)

So if you study steel, all steel structures should be yours? And if you study the world...

Yes, if you manage to create steel factories and produce steel products first. If you manage to be the first to sail around the world you have studied...

Re:World domination. Finally. (2, Funny)

ArbitraryDescriptor (1257752) | more than 4 years ago | (#32336134)

So if you study steel, all steel structures should be yours?

Sure, who cares about steel; steel is weak. What is steel compared to the synthetic flesh that wields it? Now go and contemplate this on my re-sequenced Tree of Woe (patent pending*)

*That is power.

Re:This ain't a patent troll (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32334558)

Unless they made their own novel polymerases, they're just re-using existing proteins and known coding sequences. All the world is prior art. This is a software patent using a known/published language and should be disallowed.

Re:This ain't a patent troll (2, Funny)

Kilrah_il (1692978) | more than 4 years ago | (#32334664)

10 Yep, I think we can all safely say that The Genome is the mother of all Prior Art!
20
30 P.S.
40 No, I didn't read the patent application, so I don't really know how broad their application is and if the summery doesn't stretch the truth a bit in Prof. Sulston's direction. Assuming the summery is correct - Go To 10

Re:This ain't a patent troll (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32334704)

so what if I've been working on it for 12 years and I'm nearly there? Do I have to stop? I'm all for people stopping other people from stealing stuff, but having the monopoly because they got there first makes me angry and sad

Re:This ain't a patent troll (4, Insightful)

arth1 (260657) | more than 4 years ago | (#32334890)

Venter Institute have been working on this for 15 years. Allowing them to get a temporary monopoly to use or licence elements of the fruit of their R&D so they can get a return on their investment is exactly what the patent system was intended for.

No, the intent of the system is clearly written in the United States Constitution, and was to advance the arts and sciences. I.e. a consideration for the [b]people[/b], not the inventor.

The time limitations on patents and copyrights were deliberately kept short in order to force the inventor or artist to create new work instead of living on the profits reaped from old works.

Re:This ain't a patent troll (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32334924)

is exactly what the patent system was intended for.

Patenting a process that has been in extremely common use for millions of years before you were born is NOT what the patent system was intended for.

Re:This ain't a patent troll (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32335094)

There are some areas of new technology and knowledge that are that important to mankind and imho they should never be in the hands of one corporation. I think fundamental research should be funded by the public and mankind as a whole should benefit from it. But well, I don't think in the long run things will change anyway.

I give it a few decades, 100 years at max, and the society and capitalism that we know will be gone and the patent system will die well before that. We're approaching singularity, computing power keeps increasing and probably explode due to nanotechnology, arificial intelligence gets better, more and more tasks that require some form of creativity and intelligence will be taken over by ai's and so self-improving ai's are coming closer due to that. Once they are powerful enough to develop and improve stuff without much human intervention, the whole thing will gain so much pace and invade so many fields that will change the world completely. Imho it's a no-brainer. Wish I'd live long enough to see that change. Curiousity.

Re:This ain't a patent troll (1)

bzipitidoo (647217) | more than 4 years ago | (#32336800)

I have no problem with allowing them a return on their investment.

But the means is a most unnatural and extremely wasteful and unnecessarily restrictive monopoly, granted and upheld solely by government fiat and force, paid for by our tax dollars. Monopolies are totally unacceptable. Takes a lot of force and expense to make the system function at all. And there is an endless line of scoundrels trying to take advantage of the system's huge uncertainties to argue for having the government cover far more than was ever intended, so that we are treated to such horrifying overreaches as federal border patrol agents being ordered to search for and confiscate prescription drugs. Get government out of our lives!

Re:This ain't a patent troll (1)

Eowaennor (527108) | more than 4 years ago | (#32336854)

What about any other companies/institutions who have been working on something similar also for several years? It looks like Venter's patent application is so broad that it would effectively shut down these other players who have been doing separate work in parallel. The patent system should not be a race. Sure, some guys did something special and they should be rewarded for it, the next guy also does something special but takes a little bit longer and is all of the sudden infringing upon the first guy. They both did hard work, they should both be rewarded.

Re:This ain't a patent troll (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32336964)

Exactly. Also, imagine this data being freely available to the public. Anyone can get their hands on it and create devastating things all because we wanted this information to be 'open' and free.

Sometimes, good things have to have limited access.

Very bad (1)

schn (1795404) | more than 4 years ago | (#32334452)

I don't want to have to pay to hail my new robot overlords.

Re:Very bad (1)

Errol backfiring (1280012) | more than 4 years ago | (#32334484)

You don't have to. Until you reproduce, off course...

Re:Very bad (2, Insightful)

schn (1795404) | more than 4 years ago | (#32334544)

That's actually a decent point; under this, would a sentient robot have to pay for access to it's own genome, for reproduction or otherwise?

Re:Very bad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32334660)

That's actually a decent point; under this, would a sentient robot have to pay for access to it's own genome, for reproduction or otherwise?

For answers to this and many other fascinating questions, you should read the Freefall [purrsia.com] web comic.

Re:Very bad (-1, Flamebait)

shentino (1139071) | more than 4 years ago | (#32335134)

Oh my god, a furry.

Prior Art (4, Funny)

Mattskimo (1452429) | more than 4 years ago | (#32334474)

I'd better hurry up and spit in a bag and post it to myself as evidence of prior art.

Patent on 'things'? (1)

Mr0bvious (968303) | more than 4 years ago | (#32334560)

I haven't read the article or patent but that summary sounds pretty close to a patent on 'things'....

Please tell me we're not there.

Unfortunately for him (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 4 years ago | (#32334566)

There is prior art in creating extremely variable genes. It's called sexual reproduction, and it's so simple even bacteria can do it.

Re:Unfortunately for him (3, Insightful)

asukasoryu (1804858) | more than 4 years ago | (#32334674)

Sexual reproduction has a limited input genome. Nature cannot create anything that does not already exist in the parents, save deviation due to mutation. The idea behind synthetic life is that you can produce any genome and therefore create lifeforms which could not occur naturally. The issue is whether or not you can patent a specific genome so that others cannot use it freely.

Re:Unfortunately for him (1)

KreAture (105311) | more than 4 years ago | (#32336028)

Patent on synthetic life is just a software-patent.
It should thus only be pertinent to the implemented functions and only on the way those functions are implemented.

Then again, IANAL and if I were I'd recommend I be sent packing for interfering with life, the universe and everything.
Don't forget to give me a towel though...

Re:Unfortunately for him (1)

Kilrah_il (1692978) | more than 4 years ago | (#32334750)

Actually, Bacteria do asexual reproduction, or more specifically binary fission [wikipedia.org] . So, no, bacteria can't do it.

Re:Unfortunately for him (2, Interesting)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 4 years ago | (#32334944)

Actually, bacteria can exchange genetic material [wikipedia.org] . While it's not sexual reproduction, it's still pretty damn hot if you watch it under a microscope.

Re:Unfortunately for him (1)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 4 years ago | (#32335080)

"Man, I'm tellin' you Bob...the things that chick does with her flagella? Oof, it's enough to make you divide!"

Re:Unfortunately for him (1)

Kilrah_il (1692978) | more than 4 years ago | (#32336406)

Bacterial conjugation is often incorrectly regarded as the bacterial equivalent of sexual reproduction or mating. Loosely, and misleadingly, it can be considered to be a limited bacterial version of sex, since it involves some genetic exchange.

While you are correct that bacteria have more advanced mechanisms than just binary fission, it is not considered sexual reproduction. In sexual reproduction you have 2 genomes (with more or less the same genes) from 2 different individuals, thus allowing the propagation of (hopefully) useful mutations and allowing greater diversity in the species.
In bacterial conjugation, OTOH, one bacteria has a beneficial gene (AKA plasmid) that is copied and transferred to another bacteria that does not have it. This mechanism is used, for example, to pass antibiotic resistance genes from one bacteria to another (see ESBL [wikipedia.org] ).

P.S.
I was going to say something about "pretty darn hot", but Pojut said it better (+1 Funny from me).

Re:Unfortunately for him (1)

Alphathon (1634555) | more than 4 years ago | (#32334978)

I think you'll find that bacteria reproduce asexually.

Re:Unfortunately for him (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32336572)

Bacteria can reproduce asexually, but can also do it with a pilus [wikipedia.org] .
If you click there, you will see that the male bacteria extends an appendage into the female bacteria, and proceeds to inject it with DNA, which in turn gets incorporated into the female bacteria. Even though the mechanics of it are hilariously similar to animal sex, the result isn't a new progeny different from the parents. Instead the result is two bacterial parent cells that have shared their DNA, which can then split asexually into progeny.

Re:Unfortunately for him (1)

Alphathon (1634555) | more than 4 years ago | (#32336822)

So, no sexual reproduction then. In fact a quote form the article:

Despite its name, the sex pilus is not used for sexual reproduction, and cannot be equated with a penis, although such comparisons are often used to ease understanding.

Transfer of genetic material does not constitute sex. There is no reproduction involved in that process. Any following asexual reproduction is simply preceded by that process which changes the parent cell - the reproduction is in now way effected by the transferal (other than the fact that it increases the cell size, so may speed up the separation). There is no male or female cell, rather a donor and recipient.

southern baptist tony blair; 'technology' adviser? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32334586)

yes, that's the queen's former (still) glowbull warmongerer. sounds maybe even a bit more dangerous than some of the other corepirate nazi religious zealot crusader illuminati patentdead greedmongers doing what they always do.

tony aside (which is where he'll be put, maybe in a glass gage?) there'll never be a better time to consult with/trust in your creators. see you there?

you call this weather?

Don't you understand? (5, Funny)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#32334588)

Craig Venter's dream is to use the tools of science to create the world's first true patent troll. Not a mere shell corporation; but a living, breathing creature, equal parts mythological tusks and contemporary instinct for ruthless litigation. Natural habitat? The Texas rocket-dockets...

Re:Don't you understand? (1)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 4 years ago | (#32334628)

Re:Don't you understand? (1)

WillDraven (760005) | more than 4 years ago | (#32335432)

That was a great movie until comedy central played it into the ground.

Patents (3, Interesting)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 4 years ago | (#32334638)

We should start calling them "Letters of Marque", so people will understand their purpose better.

Re:Patents (2, Interesting)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 4 years ago | (#32335024)

I will trade my lunch for mod points.

What makes this spookily accurate is the focus on global "intellectual property" enforcement regimes, so that "we can protect our interests abroad". Raw nationalist piracy on a scale that makes pillaging the Plate Fleet look like a 10 cent raid on a Take A Penny, Leave a Penny box.

Good gravy, and wait until the Chinese get in on the act. Instead of ignoring "IP" rights and actually making things - hah, naive fools - imagine a billion Chinese patent trolls filing three patents a day each and getting rich from the sweat of your brow.

When you start a shooting match, you'd best be sure that you're bringing the biggest guns.

The Race To Produce More Synthetic Life-Forms (1)

barutiwa (1796520) | more than 4 years ago | (#32334654)

I think the most interesting aspect of being the first to create a synthetic life-form is that you inspire others to continue their Research & Development on this subject using their own innovative techniques/methods to arrive at producing synthetic life. This is inspite of opposition and a patent. It all sounds like something out of a sci-fi comic book. Anyway, I think the possibilities are great. Now, I would not be surprised if someone blast their synthetic life-form on a planet like Mars [flytomars.com] just to see if their synthetic life-form will survive and replicate itself.

The end is nigh! (1)

asukasoryu (1804858) | more than 4 years ago | (#32334760)

You have just foreseen our demise. Aliens will not destroy us; it will be creatures of our own creation. Synthetic life will evolve on Mars and come back to eradicate us. These Synths must be stopped before it's too late!

Oh it's fine. (5, Insightful)

Aphoxema (1088507) | more than 4 years ago | (#32334774)

I'm not so worried about this. Monsanto already showed exceptional responsibility with their GM patents on 99.5% of the crops our food, clothes, textiles, and medicines come from. Let's take it to the next step.

Re:Oh it's fine. (2, Insightful)

Barrinmw (1791848) | more than 4 years ago | (#32335446)

It is ok for there to be potential for abuse as long as the person with the power does not abuse it? But what happens when they decide to?

Re:Oh it's fine. (1)

Aphoxema (1088507) | more than 4 years ago | (#32335612)

It is ok for there to be potential for abuse as long as the person with the power does not abuse it? But what happens when they decide to?

Just pretend it never happened, stupid.

patents slow innovation -- here a good thing ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32334816)

The usual slashdotter objection to patents is they slow innovation and introduce excessive expense and risks especially for small scale developers. Maybe here this is a good thing. I'm not sure I mind so much not having lots of wannabe Dr. Frankensteins going crazy with this technology before we have a little time as a society to get our regulations up to speed on the matter. The law is slow, after all.

Patents stiffle innovation ? hahaha come on (0, Flamebait)

unity100 (970058) | more than 4 years ago | (#32335600)

youve got to be kidding me. did medieval feudalism stifle economic activity ?

How else do you expect (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 4 years ago | (#32336090)

the Tyrell Corp. to maintain it's stranglehold on off world mining?

Blade Runner (1)

KneelBeforeZod (1527235) | more than 4 years ago | (#32336968)

I'm glad I wasn't the only one that thought of Blade Runner.
Maybe its because all the the synthetic pets in the movie/book had microscopic serial numbers. Serial numbers had become like cattle brands for mass production items. And those critters were biological AND artificially made.

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