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Stem Cell Research Running Into IP Brick Walls

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the still-waiting-on-my-patent-on-cell-division-to-come-through dept.

Biotech 131

hlovy writes "The profit motive can — yes, shockingly — drive biotech research. But, according to a report by the AFP news agency, this same drive to make money is actually putting the brakes on embryonic stem cell research. With the research already set back years due to government research bans, US scientists now face roadblocks because other universities or companies have secured exclusive rights."

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131 comments

What about government hindering innovation? (0)

intellitech (1912116) | more than 3 years ago | (#35037524)

See? Preemptively banning technology or research without full, neutral investigation of it's utility/results is stupid.

And I sincerely believe this will not be the last time politicians hinder innovation in the U.S., which makes me really, really sad. As long as politicians let petty religious bias and corporate corruption control their sway, the citizens of this country will suffer.

Re:What about government hindering innovation? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35037586)

Funny, I thought the problem was with the IP, not with the delay.

Re:What about government hindering innovation? (3, Interesting)

natehoy (1608657) | more than 3 years ago | (#35037672)

It is, but without the ban on government funding of that research, a lot of the research would now be publicly funded and therefore public domain. Instead, the private sector filled in, and have managed to get exclusive patents on a lot of the stuff they researched, meaning that even if the government or other companies do the legwork themselves the results cannot be applied to further research.

If the government funds the discovery of "a process to replace organs using self-donated tissue and stem cells", then many companies can refine that technique, apply it, and the one who comes up with a way to do it the most cheaply and effectively wins (but everyone else can apply it in different ways which may be more suitable for different organs, etc).

If a private company funds the discover of the same process, they can patent it, and no one else has any incentive to make improvements to the process unless the company that funded it is feeling generous.

Re:What about government hindering innovation? (1)

zach_the_lizard (1317619) | more than 3 years ago | (#35037764)

That's nice and all, but government granted time limited monopolies on certain technologies (commonly referred to as "patents") are the problem here. Remove those, and everyone can benefit from research and increased competition. Then it won't matter who pays the check; everyone can benefit. Paying companies to not patent things (which is what this amounts to) is a round about way of just getting rid of the things.

Re:What about government hindering innovation? (1)

Caerdwyn (829058) | more than 3 years ago | (#35038144)

Remove those, and everyone can benefit from research and increased competition

Everyone except for the people paying for the research, that is. All they get are the bills and the lawsuits.

Patents exist to encourage research spending. If there's no expectation of being able to recoup your research costs, why research at all? Why not just wait for other companies to pay for the research, then swoop in and take all the profit yourself? Except there won't be "other companies" doing the research, as they won't be interested in footing the bill without compensation either.

Might as well pass a law saying "the private sector is forbidden to do R&D, all research will be publicly funded in accordance with the personal and political whims of bureaucrats who control the budget allocations deciding what will, and won't, be researched". Same result: no private sector research, and public research strangled by the Christian Reich.

Re:What about government hindering innovation? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35037810)

You're claiming that government-funded research isn't patented. That's not how it works.

Re:What about government hindering innovation? (1, Insightful)

GigsVT (208848) | more than 3 years ago | (#35038130)

You actually believe that research and development funded with tax money winds up in the public domain? What a naive liberal.

The way it works is that public money is given to universities and such which have aggressive patent portfolio departments. They operate these patent portfolios in order to extract as much money from the private sector as possible licensing the IP that they "developed" using tax money.

Its the same with copyrights on software. Tax money funds the development of software which is then made into proprietary products.

Re:What about government hindering innovation? (1)

hajihill (755023) | more than 3 years ago | (#35037798)

Doesn't this all stem from a desire to maintain the status quo. By preventing others from outshining them, those in power retain power. Be it economic or political, stifling innovation in the competition has always been the award for coming out on top.

Re:What about government hindering innovation? (2)

mark72005 (1233572) | more than 3 years ago | (#35037658)

The biases only deal with embryonic stem cell research, which is but a subset of all types of stem cell research. For the record, I don't think you need a religious bias to object to embryo farming or similar (since this is /., we are allowed/required to carry out what-could-happen as far as possible)

Much more important than a petty political point is pointing out that exclusivity contracts in medical research are stupid. We should be attempting to advance as quickly as humanly and ethically possible in these fields, and awarding exclusivity for profit motivated (don't kid yourself, they are) universities and research institutions is damaging and nonsensical.

Re:What about government hindering innovation? (2)

spun (1352) | more than 3 years ago | (#35038018)

Why do you think that embryonic stem cell research will lead to embryo farming, and why is simply banning embryo farming itself not sufficient to solve the problem?

Re:What about government hindering innovation? (2)

joocemann (1273720) | more than 3 years ago | (#35038366)

Embryo farming is already illegal.

The *only* way embryonic stem cells can be sourced is from left over in-vitro fertilization work.

Re:What about government hindering innovation? (1)

joocemann (1273720) | more than 3 years ago | (#35038528)

...sorry... --or from passing/growing of established embryonic stem cell lines that have been around for 20-ish years.

Re:What about government hindering innovation? (4, Insightful)

flaming error (1041742) | more than 3 years ago | (#35038302)

> exclusivity contracts in medical research are stupid.
I don't think that's exactly the problem. The article is about patents.

Lots of people have problems with biotech patents because it seems immoral to patent a life form.

I sympathize with that view, but in my opinion DNA is software. On patenting software I like Donald Knuth's view, that software is math and it makes no sense to patent math.

Re:What about government hindering innovation? (3, Informative)

joocemann (1273720) | more than 3 years ago | (#35038654)

Yes, but James Thompson, the man who patented the embryonic stem cell, has not patented any novel DNA or idea. He patented something he didn't invent nor engineer; he patented something he had nothing to do with aside from observation, and only won because our patent system is so out of date it doesn't know how to address life forms, and that he was the first person to try to.

This same jerkoff (or is it the patent system that's wrong here) charges you $200k licensing per year to do any biomedical research with it, and $5k a year for universities to license simply to do any academic research at all.

Nothing about the patent is worthy of a patent. On the contrary, Yamanaka's Induced Pluripotent Stem cell work is patentable, as he has invented novel ways to revert differentiated cells to stemness. Sheng Ding has also pioneered new methods that don't include lentiviral methods (like Yamanaka), and instead use small molecules that are homologous to the desired IPSC-inducing biochemicals (Sox2, nanog, oct4, etc).

To offer some contrast: if Yamanaka were like Thompson, he could have patented the IDEA of 'reverting differentiated cells to stem-like cells exhibiting stemness". And in doing so he would be able to cover with his patent that which Ding has done, despite Ding having his own method. But I'm sure nearly every democratic voter here would agree that Yamanaka and Ding have achieved the same end by different means, and thus would each have patents to their methodology.

Fortunately, IPSC are *NOT* ESC, and so for now people can do stem-cell research without paying the JT tax simply because JT was 'first'.

Re:What about government hindering innovation? (0, Offtopic)

Biggseye (1520195) | more than 3 years ago | (#35037886)

then do not rely on the Government to pay for it. Only Government money came with strings. Get off the damn Government dole. The citizen suffer cause idiots like you think the government is the answer and not the cause of most of our problems.

Re:What about government hindering innovation? (1, Flamebait)

cyber-vandal (148830) | more than 3 years ago | (#35038458)

Yawn. Another post about how the market solves everything, despite having zero evidence that this is the case.

Re:What about government hindering innovation? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35038638)

Yawn. Another braying about another post, claiming there being zero evidence without providing any evidence themselves.

Re:What about government hindering innovation? (2)

alexander_686 (957440) | more than 3 years ago | (#35038646)

The profit motive is great. However, have you ever tried to put together a business plan longer then 10 years? Engage in high risk research? [In the sense that very little of it becomes profitable]. Or that your best ideas will be stolen by your competitors? After all, it normally takes 10+ years to go from idea to table top to the factor floor? And big ideas are not patentable.

I am all for corporations exploiting the profit motive, but you want the right tool for the right job. And basic research, with it positive externalities which are not captured by the bottom line, is something that government is good at.

Now, all we need to do is talk about post docs who hoard research so they can be first to publish. The profit motive is not the only issue.

Re:What about government hindering innovation? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35038066)

There was no ban.

Re:What about government hindering innovation? (1)

RareButSeriousSideEf (968810) | more than 3 years ago | (#35038136)

What would suddenly make politicians resistant to pettiness, bias and corruption for the first time in history?

Rule of thumb: Only let politicians make decisions where it doesn't matter if that's what's controlling them. Reserve the rest of the decisions for individuals. Reform will ebb and flow, it will look more chaotic and piecemeal, but on average you'll get the better end result sooner.

Re:What about government hindering innovation? (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 3 years ago | (#35038844)

Preemptively banning technology or research without full, neutral investigation of it's utility/results is stupid.

Of course, noone banned either research or technology in the case of stem cell research. Or even of embryonic stem cell research.

Refusal to pay for something is not actually the same thing as banning it.

Only Difference from Software and Mobile Phones (2)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 3 years ago | (#35037532)

I could argue that the exact same situation holds true in the world of software and mobile devices (especially UI) worlds. The key difference is that these stem cell companies are all suing each other up front. What are they thinking? That's the honorable way to conduct yourself when you hold intellectual property but certainly not the most profitable. Haven't they learned that you're supposed to wait until an infringing product is sold the world over with their highest stock price in years before you start the license extortion/lawsuit?

Re:Only Difference from Software and Mobile Phones (3, Funny)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | more than 3 years ago | (#35037584)

"In this new Sony Biotech Update, all users who previously used to Run have been downgraded to Walk. No apologies have been issued to any members of the Special Olympics."

Re:Only Difference from Software and Mobile Phones (1)

Korin43 (881732) | more than 3 years ago | (#35038806)

I could argue that the exact same situation holds true in the world of software and mobile devices (especially UI) worlds.

You could argue that the same situation holds true in every situation where patents are used..

Totally avoidable. (-1)

Beelzebud (1361137) | more than 3 years ago | (#35037564)

And all of this could have been avoided had we not had a politcal party in control for ten years, that placed more importance on a bronze age book, than advancing our scientific knowledge.

Re:Totally avoidable. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35037802)

So the Bible is responsible for stupid US IP laws? I think you are grasping at straws here.

Re:Totally avoidable. (1)

cjcela (1539859) | more than 3 years ago | (#35037818)

Yours is just wishful thinking. The issue is way more serious of who is the party in power. Do not be shortsighted. The current laws are not serving the purpose they were created for, and are only aligned with the interest of a few opportunistic companies. Look at the impact of patents in the software industry if not.

Re:Totally avoidable. (0)

Garridan (597129) | more than 3 years ago | (#35038122)

Just because our new president is black doesn't mean that he's any different from George Bush. That's racism, and you should be ashamed of yourself.

The way it ought to be (5, Interesting)

ShooterNeo (555040) | more than 3 years ago | (#35037628)

The way IP SHOULD work is this : first of all, compulsory licensing. If you patent any idea, or ask for government protection against unauthorized people who pirate or create a knockoff of your product, then you MUST

1. Offer terms for a license to the technology, with rates proportional to the industry and the value of the product
2. Provide the technical details needed for someone else who licenses your idea to begin work within 30 days of payment of initial fees for licensing.

Re:The way it ought to be (2)

zach_the_lizard (1317619) | more than 3 years ago | (#35037920)

The way IP SHOULD work is this:

1. Inventor applies for a patent
2. Inventor hangs patent on wall
3. Everyone else continues as before

I used to be pro-patent, but I feel that the incentive to get a patent (i.e. invent something) is outweighed by the incentive to hire lawyers and sue all those who use the idea.

Re:The way it ought to be (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35039092)

IP is a contradictory position to hold. The argument from effect is its own topic(which I also would say doesn't do what IP advocates think it does for reasons given here mises.org/books/against.pdf) but ignoring that for a moment, it isn't even a logically consistent idea at all; namely, it advocates violating property in the name of protecting that which is not actually property.

If I make some software, or write a book or whatever, I absolutely wouldn't like my work to be copied and sold. This is not what I am refuting. I certainly think restricting those behaviors with contractual agreements and such are a valid and sensible approach.

What is not valid is defining rules that contradict themselves:

A owns his body. It is his property.
B owns his body. It is his property.
A has an idea for a new widget, so he builds one. No force yet, no violation of personal property.
B sees the widget. He likes the widget, so he builds one, too. No force yet.
B decides that he would like to risk a bunch of capital tooling up a factory in order to make widgets to sell to other people. No force yet.
B is successful in making a profit by selling the widgets he has made. No force yet.
A objects to B's profit-making, claiming that he got ripped off. No force yet.
B is not worried. No force yet.
A compels B to cease selling the widgets. He threatens harm to the body of B or external property B owns. Force is initiated by A against B. Property ownership has been violated in the name of protecting that which is not property.

Full disclaimer, I copied the bulk of that example from a post here: http://freedomainradio.com/BOARD/forums/p/6242/48655.aspx. In doing so, no transfer of property has occurred.

Re:The way it ought to be (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35038088)

What if the industry doesn't exist? What if the patented idea gives me a competitive advantage in an existing market, but required a very high upfront cost to develop?

Compulsory licensing isn't the answer; but you might argue that you need to go from patent to prototype in a reasonable amount of time or then your patented technology gets put into a public exchange and you get paid for use.

Re:The way it ought to be (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35038508)

Point 1 is impossible. You'd have to basically have to say the maximum license cost per item would be the incremental profit of the item for the patent holder. Good luck getting a reasonable number on that; the court cases from "excessive license fee" suits would probably only make patents worse.

Point 2 is a requirement for a patent to be accepted; it has to contain everything someone in the field would need to replicate the invention. Which they do...

The problem isn't either of those things, the problem is that a bank can, for example, get a patent for giving you an extra day to cover an overdraft. Point 2 is covered well. Point 1? The thing is unquantifiable and basically worthless anyway; they just want to have something to run ads about for a while. By the time licensing arrangements were made no one would care anymore.

Biotech's the same way... "Patent blah: blah blah stem cells blah diabetes \ ITP we blather on about how we could possibly do something with stem cells that will do something for humans with beeties". There's no invention, no investment, no useful information, yet the USPTO grants it. Compulsory licensing? It doesn't _exist_ yet, you can't say how much it's worth. Disclosure? The did already: the patent is for using stem cells on diabetes, and they tell you 'we administer stem cells to people with diabetes'. It's not enough information to do anything useful, but the patent doesn't cover anything useful to begin with.

Re:The way it ought to be (1)

clyde_cadiddlehopper (1052112) | more than 3 years ago | (#35038560)

Proportional to which value? Patents are a temporary barrier to entry that give inventors a head start as an incentive to toil away. Compulsory licensing reduces the incentive. With infinite competition, the value is the marginal cost. With no competition, the value is the price that maximizes "monopoly rents." As a result, licensing diminishes value.

Re:The way it ought to be (1)

ShooterNeo (555040) | more than 3 years ago | (#35038770)

I don't know. But if I, say, invent a new algorithm for engine control that lets a car save 1% on gas...I couldn't demand a $10,000 per car license fee. The fee has to be less than 100% of the value added by the invention itself. How much is 1% better gas mileage worth vs. the sale price of a car? It is possible to estimate that.

Re:The way it ought to be (1)

rallen911 (714705) | more than 3 years ago | (#35038608)

Why SHOULD I be forced to license IP that I created, let alone provide technical details to allow others to use it? It's my idea! If I decide to protect it, then I should be protected. I can decide to license it, but if I don't, nobody else should be able to profit from it.

If there is protected IP that you want to use, then you might actually be forced to come up with your own idea. Would you want to be forced to share that new idea and help your competition drive you out of business? Not likely!

If you remove the incentive for the creation of new ideas, i.e. money, then you will get less of that. This is another case of people not thinking things through to the end.

Re:The way it ought to be (1)

Korin43 (881732) | more than 3 years ago | (#35038902)

Why SHOULD I be forced to license IP that I created, let alone provide technical details to allow others to use it? It's my idea! If I decide to protect it, then I should be protected. I can decide to license it, but if I don't, nobody else should be able to profit from it.

If there is protected IP that you want to use, then you might actually be forced to come up with your own idea. Would you want to be forced to share that new idea and help your competition drive you out of business? Not likely!

If you remove the incentive for the creation of new ideas, i.e. money, then you will get less of that. This is another case of people not thinking things through to the end.

Why should you get patent protection from the government? The idea that you have some sort of right to stop other people from doing anything that you thought of first is just plain stupid.

The point of a patent is that you get protection in exchange for sharing your idea, and the argument against it is that that protection is frequently more valuable than sharing the idea (so it's a bad trade for the government to make).

Re:The way it ought to be (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35038972)

Why should we enforce an artificial monopoly on your idea for your exclusive benefit if you would refuse to license it at reasonable prices enough to benefit society?

Few people would say that innovators should not be rewarded for their innovation, but when those rewards stifle future innovation, then clearly theres a problem. Perhaps patents should only be protected when the invention is licensed at reasonable prices (there is probably a reasonable supply-demand estimation of this value).

Further more, the bar for patents should be much higher: math, software and existing biological systems should be never be patentable.

Edison possibly ruined science forever (5, Interesting)

mykos (1627575) | more than 3 years ago | (#35037716)

Bury the real scientists in a mountain of FUD.

Make great advancements, but don't pursue them unless they produce a profit.

While you're not using those advancements, be sure to sue everyone who stumbles upon what you stumbled upon first.

This is not how science should work (1)

presidenteloco (659168) | more than 3 years ago | (#35037730)

University researchers should be exempt by law from paying patent royalties/licenses.

Period.

Re:This is not how science should work (1)

Biggseye (1520195) | more than 3 years ago | (#35037906)

wrong. As long as they get a single dollar from the Government or private sources, they should have to patent it to claim exclusive right and pay just like every one else does, no exemptions

Re:This is not how science should work (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 3 years ago | (#35038568)

right, it's jsut the you're reading comprehension fails.

Reread the poster post, then read your post. IF you still can't figureout what's wrong read below.
.
.
.
.
.

.
. Apparently you are a moron.

Re:This is not how science should work (3, Interesting)

vadim_t (324782) | more than 3 years ago | (#35038596)

Government money is tax money, paid by all the residents of the country. If everybody paid for it, then everybody should own it. Therefore anything financed with public money should be in the public domain, no exceptions.

Re:This is not how science should work (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35038670)

another idiot that can read!

Re:This is not how science should work (1)

joocemann (1273720) | more than 3 years ago | (#35038698)

FYI, Thompson charges universities a $5k/year licensing fee to reaserach ESC.

goodbye! (1)

boxxa (925862) | more than 3 years ago | (#35037744)

ah yes. way to go American government. lets send another industry that could create jobs and money for the country elsewhere because of our ridiculous laws due to money backed lobbyists.

Re:goodbye! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35037812)

Totally! This is a present from Bush.

For the last time (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35037750)

It wasn't banned, it just wasn't funded by government. Stem cell research was welcome to continue, just not using government money.

Re:For the last time (0)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 3 years ago | (#35038190)

It says "government research bans". Which surely means "bans on research done by government" or "bans on research with government resources". Otherwise it would just be "research bans". Parsing "government research bans" is "research bans placed by the government" seems silly since who else can ban it in the first place?

Re:For the last time (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35039280)

Good catch (!) recognizing some poor journalism!

Patents on naturaly occuring material (2)

Mick R (932337) | more than 3 years ago | (#35037770)

quite simply should be cancelled and banned. If some pharma company actually INVENTS some new gene that CANNOT occur due to natural mutation then fine, but when it occurs naturally ANYWHERE in nature then nobody should have the right to patent it. Clearly it was NOT their invention and discoveries and inventions are very different things. Patents on "business methods" and software should also be blanket cancelled and forbidden, the first because it's a ridiculous concept and the second because software is a written work and already covered by copyright law. Neither is a physical innovation, which is what patents were supposed to cover.

Re:Patents on naturaly occuring material (1)

Theaetetus (590071) | more than 3 years ago | (#35037926)

If some pharma company actually INVENTS some new gene that CANNOT occur due to natural mutation then fine, but when it occurs naturally ANYWHERE in nature then nobody should have the right to patent it.

Ah, so you have no problem with these patents, then? They're on isolated genes that CANNOT occur naturally.

Patents on "business methods" and software should also be blanket cancelled and forbidden, the first because it's a ridiculous concept and the second because software is a written work and already covered by copyright law. Neither is a physical innovation, which is what patents were supposed to cover. ... then what exactly do you think was meant by the word "process" in when Congress wrote "Whoever invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof, may obtain a patent therefor, subject to the conditions and requirements of this title"?

Another example of US IP laws not working (1)

cjcela (1539859) | more than 3 years ago | (#35037788)

This is just one more field where current patent and copyright law hinders innovation. You cannot have a monopoly and pretend other people to innovate. Unless something change, the US future in science and technology is going to be crippled in the next couple of decades because of the overprotective nature of the current IP laws. As a side note, the idea that a company can be innovative while having profit as its ultimate objective is sorely misguided.

Re:Another example of US IP laws not working (2)

geekoid (135745) | more than 3 years ago | (#35038578)

Good news then.

The moment it seriously impedes profit for large business, it will change.

Polio Vaccine (5, Interesting)

0100010001010011 (652467) | more than 3 years ago | (#35037794)

Jonas Salk [wikipedia.org] refused to patent the polio vaccine.. When he was asked in a televised interview who owned the patent to the vaccine, Salk replied: "There is no patent. Could you patent the sun?"

There is no 'greater good' research anymore, as long as people get their $. Capitalism: A Love Story [imdb.com] is an interesting movie. Yes, it is Michael Moore, but if you go in expecting some slant it's entertaining to see how stuff has changed from "I'm not going to patent something that saved people from the Iron Lung" to "Screw you guys, I gotta get my patents".

Re:Polio Vaccine (1)

Biggseye (1520195) | more than 3 years ago | (#35037854)

horse crap. the polio vaccine was developed as a profit making venture. "the greater good" is serviced by capitalism having the incentive to make a profit while helping others. I was alive then I know what happened,

Re:Polio Vaccine (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35038768)

horse crap. being "alive then" does NOT mean you "know what happened".

It just means you're old.

The inventor of the polio vaccine didn't patent it. You know, PATENTS, the profit making device?

Re:Polio Vaccine (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35038308)

What, exactly, is the merit of not patenting the vaccine? If all you cared about saving people from the iron lung, couldn't that be better done when you have the patent? By centralizing manufacturing, you could take full advantage of the economics of scale to minimize the price. Or, you could license it at not cost to other manufacturers if, for instance, it cost less for them to modify their existing capabilities than it would for you to upgrade/build your own.

And if someone wanted to do research for the greater good, I'm _sure_ they'd be allowed by the patent holder (who would profit from it). This is just a bunch of people whining because some other company came up with the idea first.

(Of course this is rather independent of the problem of the USPTO granting vague, unproven, or just way to many patents which _does_ stifle innovation.)

Re:Polio Vaccine (2)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | more than 3 years ago | (#35038604)

Holy effin shit. Is people's knowledge of capitalism and free market economy that weak that they don't even understand what a patent is?

A patent is a government enforced monopoly. As such, it represents a barrier to entry to a market, reducing competition and protecting incumbents. By definition, this means that a market with a patent is less efficient than one without.

The only reason that patents exist is that people understand that inventions create NEW markets, and that said inventions require an up-front investment. Said investment has to have a chance to be recouped, or a free-market economy will actively prevent any R&D effort. That's why patents exist - so that in our style of economy, people actually have a reason to work on new stuff that doesn't have a market yet.

People who work on things like vaccines while refusing to patent them ought to be given lifetime stipends to do whatever the fuck they want. Because they're the real saints and heroes of our world.

Re:Polio Vaccine (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 3 years ago | (#35038412)

Could you patent the sun?"

Please, do not give the patent trolls any ideas; they will try to patent this. "A method and process of using a massive hydrogen celestial body to generate energy with hydrogen to helium fusion."

Back to the polio and Jonas Salk, a neighbor of mine when I was a child had caught it as a teenager, and spent most of his life on crutches. He had a PhD in physics and worked at RCA's David Sarnoff Research Center in Princeton. He spoke very highly of Jonas Salk, and the fact that a lot of folks would be spared from what he had. But he was also very funny. He picked up his crutches one day and said to me, "Because of Dr. Salk's polio vaccine, you'll miss all the fun of walking around on crutches!"

If I was in his situation, I would have become very bitter and hit anything in range with the crutches. "Hey, kids, come onto my lawn. Get a little closer to me. See what is written on my crutch in small letters? It says 'Louisville Slugger!" Whack!

It is really saddening if medical research gets bogged down in legal issues.

Re:Polio Vaccine (1)

John Saffran (1763678) | more than 3 years ago | (#35038594)

The trouble is that selfish individuals will then take advantage of that .. Jonas Salk refuses to patent the polio vaccine? I'll patent it and sue him for a 'clear' breach of my invention.

Sure, the 'prior invention' conditions should prevent this, but you can just DOS the patent offices by issuing requests for the most trivial things to prevent them from examining things in too much detail.

The system doesn't punish patent grabbing, it encourages it in fact, so you have to get patents for defensive purposes .. truly a sad state of affairs.

Re:Polio Vaccine (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35038668)

IP laws are not capitalistic, they are government-granted monopolies. The framers viewed them very clearly for what they were: tweaks on the free market which they believed would produce better results than the free market itself. Not only do I believe this was wrong, I believe it was immoral. Government, whose only powers are the collection of our individual powers, has no right to abridge the actions of some for the aggrandizement of others, no matter what the purpose. Government must always and only protect natural rights, never violate them. What kind of life, economy, and world we produce within that system of justice is up to society to determine for itself.

Re:Polio Vaccine (1)

stumblingblock (409645) | more than 3 years ago | (#35040224)

But the situation is different today. Universities need the income from products developed within their research facilities. Better it goes there than to some greedy capitalists, no? If it happens to save human lives, somehow no one should profit from it?

IANAL (Duh?), but Patents don't work like that. (1)

Rashkae (59673) | more than 3 years ago | (#35037814)

I thought the whole point of the patent system was that the Inventions became public knowledge, such that inventors (and researchers) *could* in fact, learn from them and improve on them.

Of course, if a researcher did make a breakthrough, actually bringing a product to market would require co-operation with the original patent holder for licensing / cross-licensing, but that is not a barrier to research.

Re:IANAL (Duh?), but Patents don't work like that. (1)

Theaetetus (590071) | more than 3 years ago | (#35037942)

I thought the whole point of the patent system was that the Inventions became public knowledge, such that inventors (and researchers) *could* in fact, learn from them and improve on them.

Of course, if a researcher did make a breakthrough, actually bringing a product to market would require co-operation with the original patent holder for licensing / cross-licensing, but that is not a barrier to research.

Yep. Plus, if you read the article, the guy complaining about it isn't complaining that he can't get a license or do further research... He's complaining that he can't make as much money for his investors on it.

Re:IANAL (Duh?), but Patents don't work like that. (1)

suutar (1860506) | more than 3 years ago | (#35038880)

You mean the article containing these two paragraphs?

Lanza recalls bumping up against his company's main competitor, Geron Corporation, when it came to researching stem cells in reversing diabetes, a process he said he had been working on with animals for many years.

"When I came to ACT to try to do it with stem cells I couldn't because the rights to use embryonic stem cells for diabetes had been exclusively licensed to Geron," he said.

Re:IANAL (Duh?), but Patents don't work like that. (1)

whoever57 (658626) | more than 3 years ago | (#35037944)

I thought the whole point of the patent system was that the Inventions became public knowledge, such that inventors (and researchers) *could* in fact, learn from them and improve on them.

That may have been the idea at one time, but the moronic "triple damages for wilful infringement" means that researchers effectively can't use the patent datatbase, lest they turn a normal infringement into a wilful infringement.

Goodness (1)

Biggseye (1520195) | more than 3 years ago | (#35037824)

Imagine, Researchers not getting their own way, first that mean bunch of Conservative think the people of the US should not have to pay for them trying to play god. Then, Goodness they have to compete for private funds; gasp!!! Then the people that did invest want ownership of the results; the savages. Lest be completely honest about this. Most organizations that do medical research live off of government money, they think they know better then everyone else. They cry and cry when they do not get their own way, then if they do succeed, they want the money from it. Guess what folks, this is still a Free enterprise country. If you patent a process, if you pay to have it developed, you own it, the government should have 0 say in it. Remember, the Saulk group developed the polio Vaccine as a profit making project.

Public domain (2)

einstein4pres (226130) | more than 3 years ago | (#35037842)

Projects which accept federal grant money should require their products [patents, papers, etc.] to be placed in the public domain.

I'm not particularly happy with private companies patenting stem cell research, but if they're patenting actual functioning procedures, then I might rescind my objections.

"When I came to ACT to try to do it with stem cells I couldn't because the rights to use embryonic stem cells for diabetes had been exclusively licensed to Geron," he said."

I hope that this is a poorly worded quote. "Using stem cells to cure diabetes" doesn't sound patentable to me. Perhaps they patented using the most logical path to curing diabetes? If it was so logical, how did it meet the patentability criteria? If it was so vague, how again?

Lanza said his company has spent around 100 million dollars of investor funds on its research, and has had to play the game of securing intellectual property (IP) rights in order to compete.

"I am coming from a company where we have blocking IP as well," Lanza said. "In order for us to get money we have to file patents to protect our rights otherwise we get prohibited from even pursuing our own technology.

That's not how it's supposed to work. Of course, it might be cheaper to patent than defend against infringement claims, but that's also not how it should work.

Are we hitting the point where patents are being held defensively here also? I hope that at the very least, cross-licensing will become common enough to not prevent research. Additional expenses will be passed onto consumers and move research overseas, which can hardly be good for the US.

IP Brick Walls? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35037844)

First off, they are called fire walls. And second, they just need to get a new ISP, and that will solve the problem. Also, did they try turning it off then back on?

Note the U.S. Part... (1)

Plekto (1018050) | more than 3 years ago | (#35037966)

Our screwed up system here in the U.S. will only serve to send more and more scientists overseas to work where they can be free of this type of insanity.

I know that if I was a 25 year old who had a degree in biology or engineering, I'd make a bee-line to Asia. The insanity concerning IP, copyrights, non-disclosure contracts, and on and on, plus the impossibility to finding work in the U.S. right now. There's so much red tape to do anything in this country now that everyone simply has lost the will to do anything about it.

Henrietta Lacks... (1)

Anachragnome (1008495) | more than 3 years ago | (#35038004)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henrietta_Lacks [wikipedia.org]

I wonder what rights the descendants of this woman have in regards to all of this IP bullshit? Could they not simply claim rights and then allow full use by all? A global free-licensing, so to speak?

Without this woman and her wonderful cells, none of this research would be happening. None.

Re:Henrietta Lacks... (1)

bugs2squash (1132591) | more than 3 years ago | (#35039614)

I don't know. But if they're using an unlicensed copy of her DNA themselves, or a derivative work, then they may get sued. I suggest they keep quiet about it.

"Life! Life! I have created life!" (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 3 years ago | (#35038040)

"I'm sorry Dr. Frankenstein, but you have no right to use the intellectual property of life, The exclusive rights for life have been secured by the University of Transylvania. A mob of lawyers with pitchforks and torches is on its way here. You could appeal to the Dean of the Department of Screwing Around with Stem Cells at the University of Transylvania, Professor Dracula. But the only responses that I have received from him are, and I quote, 'Blaeh! Blaeh! Blaeh!' Before I could press the matter further, he turned himself into a bat, and flew away. Obviously, they are very advanced with their stem cell research."

I would like to... (2)

MrQuacker (1938262) | more than 3 years ago | (#35038060)

Buy a tanker and convert it to labs, then sail the ocean and do research out of the reach of lawyers.

After all, there is no IP law in the middle of the pacific.

Re:I would like to... (2)

geekoid (135745) | more than 3 years ago | (#35038624)

But there is IP law where you want to sell the product; which is the point.

News flash: You can have a lab and do all the research you want on patented cell research. In fact, you could even improve it and patent that.

You keep being stupid, it suits you.

Re:I would like to... (1)

MrQuacker (1938262) | more than 3 years ago | (#35040386)

How so? Say you create a stem cell treatment for a disease. If the patient comes to you, then the IP problems arent there. That has nothing to do with geography.

Let's see if I got this straight (2)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 3 years ago | (#35038068)

Let me see if I got this straight, some guy is complaining that since he couldn't use Federal money to do the research he wanted to do, someone beat him to it and now if he pursues it he won't be able to make as much money as he would like. Is that about the gist of this?
And some /.ers are using that as an excuse to bash Bush for funding some embryonic stem cell research. He should have followed Clinton's lead and not allowed any federal fundign for embryonic stem cell research.

Re:Let's see if I got this straight (0)

geekoid (135745) | more than 3 years ago | (#35038658)

"He should have followed Clinton's lead and not allowed any federal fundign for embryonic stem cell research."

Except Clinton did allow fund for some Embryonic stem cells. Bush passed a law so no federal funding regarless of the source could happen.

While Clinton was wrong, Bush as far, far worse.

Re:Let's see if I got this straight (3, Informative)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 3 years ago | (#35038888)

Under Clinton there was no federal funding of embryonic stem cell research. Additionally, Bush was President, so no, he did not pass a law of any kind. President Bush issued an Executive Order that allowed Federal funding of embryonic stem cell research as long as the research was on pre-existing stem cell lines. Before that, there was no federal funding of any embryonic stem cell research.
I do not know where you got your "information", but it is completely wrong.

correction (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35038090)

stem cell research != stem cell research

It's a very small and unsucessful subset of stem cell research.

I'm amazed (2)

Grapplebeam (1892878) | more than 3 years ago | (#35038140)

We've stayed far ahead in Science at all for the past fifty years. Capitalism really isn't the best way to build the future.

Re:I'm amazed (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 3 years ago | (#35038690)

So by your own admissions it works, but you still say it doesn't work.

The evidence you present is that it does, in fact, work.

sour grapes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35038214)

This from a company with 24 published patent applications and 6 issued patents, most of which naming the guy quoted in the article as an inventor.

If you can't beat em...join em i guess

Wha? Patent system abuse detected (1)

JAlexoi (1085785) | more than 3 years ago | (#35038270)

wasn't the patent system created so that researchers would build upon existing knowledge? It was the answer to the problem of guild trade secrets not allowing progress in the field.
I.e I should be able to do research and patent the results, while having the patent as an "upgrade" to another patent. This is the most pure result of patents working exactly the opposite as they were intended - stifling research and innovation.

What? How can this be? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35038900)

What? How can this be? We have a system, designed to put as much money and property into the smallest number of very rich hands as possible, and somehow it stifles innovation and progress? Surely you must be joking! Scientific research blocked by patents? Engineering and design blocked by patents? Literature, art, perhaps even societal change blocked by patents? Surely not! Well we can't change it even if its true, the rich and powerful would not let the government allow the governments change it! We must all suffer under the control of a very small, very rich few.

Patents for Flawed Concepts, Cool (1)

LifesABeach (234436) | more than 3 years ago | (#35038958)

By accident, I RTFA; it's Friday, I blame myself. So, if I have a patent for some type of therapy that has yet to be proven; then everyone owes me money. But if my patent causes harm to someone then I am not to blame? Cool. But something smells like fish 3 days in the sun. I don't see a cure for "...paralysis, blindness and diabetes...", using anything; from my viewpoint, there is no valid claim. If business is pleading with the government about regulations, lets start with dissolving the patent office.

Predicted This (0)

b4upoo (166390) | more than 3 years ago | (#35039120)

It was obvious during the Bush era that America would suffer a terrible and permanent economic harm by restricting stem cell research. Many researchers moved to england and Europe and patents will keep us from reaping in a mega fortune from the products certain to flow in what we be a huge stem cell industry. Wanting to restrict stem cell research and treason were locked at the hip. money and national security go hand in hand and the narrow minded right wing stopped research and left America out in the cold. These right wing types are the very reason that post birth abortions need to take place.

Perfect example (0)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 3 years ago | (#35039262)

of a government supporting condemning innocent people to death for lobyist profits. And we are not talking this time about people of a far away country in the middle east, but eventually someone close to you.

Ha Ha... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35039460)

...Ha Ha!

A ban is different from a refusal to fund (3, Insightful)

timothy (36799) | more than 3 years ago | (#35039778)

I don't plan to pay you (anyone reading this) to establish a church on Mars. You may think it's a good idea, but I have objections.

However, please don't interpret this as a ban on your doing so.

If you do, you are dum.

Thanks,

timothy

James Boyle, expert on The Public Domain (1)

Paul Fernhout (109597) | more than 3 years ago | (#35039954)

http://james-boyle.com/ [james-boyle.com] http://www.thepublicdomain.org/ [thepublicdomain.org]
"Chapter 7: The Enclosure of Science and Technology: Two Case Studies"
http://yupnet.org/boyle/archives/162 [yupnet.org]
"Think of the reaction of the synthetic biologists at MIT. They feared that the basic building blocks of their new discipline could be locked up, slowing the progress of science and research by inserting intellectual property rights at the wrong point in the research cycle. To solve the problem they were led seriously to consider claiming copyright over the products of synthetic biology -- to fight overly broad patent rights with a privately constructed copyright commons, to ride the process of legal expansion and turn it to their own ends. As I pointed out earlier, I think the tactic would not fare well in this particular case. But it is an example of a new move in the debate over intellectual property, a new tactic: the attempt to create a privately constructed commons where the public domain created by the state does not give you the freedom that you believe creativity needs in order to thrive. It is to that tactic, and the distributed creativity that it enables, that I will turn to now."

some research is exempt from patent rights (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35040044)

TFA doesn't give the full story. To fully address whether patents are impeding biotech research, the article probably should have addressed the statutes and cases exempting some forms of research from patent rights: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Research_exemption. The exemptions are arguably too narrow, but to not address them suggests the authors are not well enough informed to warrant a slashdot post.

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