Beta

Slashdot: News for Nerds

×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Squatting On Life

Hemos posted more than 13 years ago | from the what-an-abused-system-we-have dept.

Patents 165

Andy Smith writes "An investigation by The Guardian newspaper has exposed the extent of human and non-human gene patenting by private firms, universities and charities. What stands out about this investigation is that many of these organisations are 'gene-squatting', ie: patenting genes that they do not yet understand. There are currently over 160,000 patent applications for whole or partial human genes, with more than 20% being from one company, Genset."

cancel ×

165 comments

This is GOOD! (3)

bluGill (862) | more than 13 years ago | (#622948)

this is accually a good thing. You see we don't really understand genes yet. We have obtained vague understandings of some, but it will be years before we really understand them. The patent will expire in 17 (20?) years.

By the time we understand and can do anything we the gene with patented number 18953894 (made up, I don't know if it is a valid number) the patent will have expireed and nobody will be able to use this patent to get money from medical treatment!

Re:But lawyers are your friends (2)

mOdQuArK! (87332) | more than 13 years ago | (#622952)

If the laws weren't so complicated and hard to read that the "average citizen" didn't have a hope-in-hell of understanding even a part of them without a lifetime of learning, then we wouldn't need nearly as many lawyers as the US requires at this point in history. And who wrote the laws? Oh yeah, mainly a bunch of lawyers. Can you say "job security"?

Isn't it amazing that the US's first legal document, the Constitution, can be read & understood by elementary school kids, even though it was written over 200 years ago? Do you think they'd be able to do the same with a chunk of the US Tax Code?

I don't directly blame the politicians for the current state of US law - I see the whole mess as kind of systemic failure, where the legal code is like an out-of-control software project, where none of the programmers have a deep understanding of the architecture or how most of the code is implemented, so they keep slapping patches on their bits of it and trying to keep the whole house of cards from collapsing (sometimes by ignoring the silliness coming out of the system).

The fact that most of the "programmers" are lawyers, and are essentially trained by their educational system to write using a dialect which the general populace finds hard to understand, and the fact that they aren't required to DOCUMENT anything (because they assume their source code IS the document :), means that they're going to rapidly construct a monster which (when aroused) will consume anyone whose life it touches.

Does anyone else here think that the US legal system, and the people writing the laws, could use a real good dose of training in Systems Analysis and Design?

Prior Art ... Dammit! (2)

cybermage (112274) | more than 13 years ago | (#622967)

The people submitting and reviewing the patents are themselves proof of prior art!

Genset - "We'll be the first ones against the wall when the revolution comes (tm)!"


Arrgh! This is annoying.

--

Re:Grrr. (2)

ChambersR (204599) | more than 13 years ago | (#622968)

This is not to say that I support gene patenting.. but I believe the reason for it is to provide an incentive for companies to research genes. If there was no such thing as a gene patent, then it would probably be much longer before we got a cure for cancer and whatever other genetic diseases there are.

And since a lot of companies started expensive gene researching under the impression that they could patent the genes, it would be pretty cruel to reject their patents (to the companies and their stockholders.)

Perhaps a good compromise would be to limit the patents to 5 years or so?

-------
Libertarian party [lp.org]

Re:Grrr. (2)

tetrad (131849) | more than 13 years ago | (#622969)

probably the same way the feds can 'auction' off electromagnetic spectrum to the highest bidder.

Actually, they aren't auctioning the spectrum, they're auctioning the use of the spectrum. Much better than having a hundred different companies trying to use the same frequency at once, no?

Re:Even if God did patent life (1)

vb.warrior (242890) | more than 13 years ago | (#622970)

Wasnt that Jesus?

Some clarification on "gene patents" (5)

lost_it (44553) | more than 13 years ago | (#622971)

From the Human Genome Project's website:
The patentability of inventions under U.S. law is determined by the Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in the Department of Commerce. A patent application is judged on four criteria. The invention must be "useful" in a practical sense (the inventor must identify some useful purpose for it), "novel" (i.e., not known or used before the filing), and "nonobvious" (i.e., not an improvement easily made by someone trained in the relevant area). The invention also must be described in sufficient detail to enable one skilled in the field to use it for the stated purpose (sometimes called the "enablement" criterion).

In general, raw products of nature are not patentable. It's usually when these DNA products have been isolated, purified, or modified to produce a unique form not found in nature that they become patentable.

For the rest of the explanation, go to:
http://www.ornl.gov/hgmis/elsi/patents.html

The Human Genome Project's web page is at:
http://www.ornl.gov/hgmis/

Hopefully this will clarify things for people who don't understand what is meant by "patenting genes"

Re:Grrr. (1)

cybermage (112274) | more than 13 years ago | (#622972)

Their not auctioning off the spectrum itself, but rather the right to use it, lest we have anarchy with people stamping on each other's signals.

--

Re:Grrr. (1)

dasuit (254929) | more than 13 years ago | (#622973)

The patent office doesn't care about the merits of an application. They just confirm that no else has has applied before you for the same thing. Because of the load of applications they have taken a stance of lets do our best and let the courts settle any disputes. Most anything can be patented from business pratices to even obviuos software features (thank you Amazon)

Okay, that's it! (1)

glebite (206150) | more than 13 years ago | (#622974)

OpenSource the DNA! I can imagine however, a future world populated by people who are Tailored and others who are "Free-range." Personally, I talked with my only living creator, my Mom - and although she was initially against me GPLing my DNA, I explained to her that although she was a co-creator of me, that I did have a right to choose what I do with my life, including what I want to do with my DNA. She really liked the idea that people could tinker and modify my genes as long as she retains the original credits - she never liked my nose, and perhaps Glebite-3.99Nose-pre-4.0.diff patch would work out for the better... But as for companies claiming ownership, my Mom would like to talk with their CEO about 26 hours of labour and how much of the pain she would like to share with them.

Re:How can these Patents stand? (1)

Elbelow (176227) | more than 13 years ago | (#622975)

No, they are actually patenting the specific nucleotide sequence of the genes they identify.
General (and obviously, patented) methods for the synthesis of arbitrary DNA strands have been in common use for several years now. You just specify the nucleotide sequence, send the form to a company and a few days later you get your DNA. The technique is mostly used to make short DNA primers (for PCR reactions and other lab applications). Synthesising a complete gene with several hundred nucleotides would still be very expensive, but is already possible. I don't think you could now patent a method to synhesise any specific gene zith these genaral methods available.

Re:You are not a walking patent, no (1)

cattlepr0d (195325) | more than 13 years ago | (#622976)

You seem to be labouring under the assumption that they know what they are doing. Why do you assume this? Owning lots of IP != clue
--

Grrr. (4)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 13 years ago | (#622984)

How can you patent something that you discover rather than invent?

If Ug had patented the color of the daytime sky 30K years ago, would the rest of us have to pay a fee to view it?

Patent held by.. (1)

Technician (215283) | more than 13 years ago | (#622988)

The author. The creator. GOD!

Shouldn't be able to patent discoveries. (1)

substrate (2628) | more than 13 years ago | (#622989)

I'm not anti-patent, but this is ridiculous. I can understand and fully support them patenting any inventions or procedures they use for mapping the human gene. Genes are something that exist, its just a new frontier of human exploration. Columbus couldn't patent America and these people shouldn't be able to patent a gene.

If they patent the inventions that help them discover the genes then they can make money (license the patents) and there's enough money involved that you can bet that people will try to innovate competing schemes of gene exploration.

How? (4)

jmv (93421) | more than 13 years ago | (#622990)

Can anyone explain how the hell it's possible to patent a human gene? I'd like to know that, since you can't fight what you don't understand and I sure don't understand why there isn't just about 1 billion year of prior art (well, ~30000 if it's a human-specific gene, but still)...

Is there anyone out there who knows?

Re:You are not a walking patent, no (5)

kyz (225372) | more than 13 years ago | (#622991)

These patents are here to protect the investments of the genetics companies who have been researching into genetic engineering and gene therapy. It doesn't come cheap, why shouldn't they patent their findings?

No, you'll actually find that companies are patenting particular sequences without knowing what they do. Patents are not there to give someone a monopoly for the hell of it, patents are meant to add knowledge to the public domain, by offering the the inventor a limited monopoly for it. If they want a monopoly, they should have to tell us what the genes do first. This is just typical of how corrupt the patent system has become; companies expect to get outright monopolies based on overbroad patent applications. The idea of 'inventing' something and having that protected has long gone. I would go so far as to say this is a good thing in many ways. It stops unscrupulous cowboy genetic's companies messing around with a set of genes in say, maize, and creating some sort of super-weed. At least this way, only the people who actually know what they are doing can apply their findings to genetic engineering.

More rot. Only governments can demand scientists stop messing with genetics. A patent doesn't stop you from doing something, it just passes control to the patent holder, Mr Drug Company. Do you think they give a rat's ass about gene splicing? Not if they can make money off it.

The other bit I don't like is that these patent monopolies will destroy the research community. It's no longer collaborative research within the scientific community, it's private hands-off-this-is-mine greed driven research.

The Aliens Have Landed. (1)

AftanGustur (7715) | more than 13 years ago | (#622992)

A giant (R = 1 km) disk approcahes earth and starts orbitting it, is is discovered that it's surface is completely covered with numbers.

Somebody discovers that those numbers are all made up of two prime factors. The race is on .. Everybody and his brother starts crunching numbers to decode the message.

Should the resulting combination of prime numbers be patentable ?


--
Why pay for drugs when you can get Linux for free ?

Yes,Jesus == God == Holy Spirit (1)

Hairy_Potter (219096) | more than 13 years ago | (#622993)

Wasnt that Jesus?

Yes, Jesus == God == Holy Spirit, the holry Trinity and one of the central mysteries of our faith.

Didn't you learn anything in CCD?

not all trees are green (1)

loose_change (196779) | more than 13 years ago | (#622994)

It's a good thing I have some red maples. Will I owe less for variagated varieties?

Prior art (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#622995)

Hello. My name is Jesus H Christ, and I would just like to complain about this. My Dad is always getting ripped off - he invented these things years ago.

Re:Grrr. (1)

Paul Sheridan (220709) | more than 13 years ago | (#622996)

The biggest problem with this is that in many cases of human gene research the person the genes came from doesn't get anything at all. Doesn't 2 billion years of evolution count as prior art?

Because... (2)

Jon Erikson (198204) | more than 13 years ago | (#623007)

For a start they're not patenting the gene itself, they're patenting an application of the gene i.e. a treatment based upon the gene, an isolated version of the gene (not the same as the ones in your body) or a modified version of the gene. This immeadiately cuts down on half of the scare stories that seem to be circulating here.

Yes, I think that a company shouldn't be able to patent a gene for which they have nothing but the raw chemical itself, they should have a good idea of what it does first.

But, the basic idea of patenting genes is no different from patenting any other invention. Biotech research is a very risky, expensive business, and for every Viagra out there, there are a thousand chemicals that didn't work or weren't safe to use. And because it's an industry where espionage is rife, seeking patent protection is about the only way these companies can ensure they see any profit on what they spend millions researching.

Re:Wait wait wait... (2)

DrWiggy (143807) | more than 13 years ago | (#623008)

So, does that mean that one day someone can charge for wheat? Or charge others to tinker with the genetic code for wheat? I mean ye gods, I may be crazy, but this is f*cking RETARDED!

This already happens. There are certain types of animal feed and even paritcular types of seeds for certain crops that have been "fiddled" with that farmers pay extra for. It's GM food (genetically modified), and you've been eating it for years - fruit, vegetbales, everything. Perhaps the true GM-free organic frenzy hasn't hit the US yet, but in the UK it's a well-formed bandwagon these days.

The point about patents, is that they are not ever-lasting, but they enable a company or individual who has invented or discovered something, perhaps at considerable cost, and who now wishes to capitalise on that work.

Let's suppose a company spends $1 billion pounds on discovering that switcing a paritcular gene makes you immune to HIV. That's one hell of a bill to pay, but it's certainly a worthy cause. They need to recoup that $1 billion and make some more money so that they can research other genes and their relationship with cancer. So they patent this knowledge.

They then have exclusive rights to develop the medication based on this knowledge. They sell it at $5 a pop, and they'll make about $5 billion back within a few years (HIV is more prevalent in developing countries than you think). They've made their money, the drug is out there, they've saved millions of lives. 20 years down the line, the patent expires, and everybody can use this knowledge.

At a more mundane level (and an application that already exists), suppose somebody works out that by tweaking a particular bit of DNA in wheat, the crop yield ends up higher - pretty damned useful stuff, especially in famine areas. If they spend $1 billion on developing that, are you saying they should give it away free of charge? How do we then invest in the next generation? How do we benefit from gene research in the long run? How is research into genes funded at all?

It is patents that allow investment in creative and speculative projects to happen. At the end of the day, everybody wins ultimately - think about the benefit to mankind as a whole, not just to you. Next time kids, think before flying off the handle.

Simplistic solution (1)

nagora (177841) | more than 13 years ago | (#623009)

I know this is a complex issue with all sorts of angles and subtle arguments on both sides but couldn't we just kill the bastards? You know, if you see a geneticist crossing the road, just run them down like the dog s/he is, that sort of thing.

Would that help?

TWW

Re:Some clarification on "gene patents" (1)

Elbelow (176227) | more than 13 years ago | (#623010)

In the case of gene sequences determined by large scale sequencing efforts and without a known biological function, I do not see how it could be "useful in practical sense" or in any specific way.

Its not the gene as such... (4)

Bazman (4849) | more than 13 years ago | (#623011)

Someone from one of the genetic research places was trying to explain this on BBC Radio 4 this morning. His argument was that they weren't patenting genes, but patenting medicines ('molecules') that used the genes as part of themselves. In other words, they take a chunk of DNA that makes a useful substance (say, insulin), then diddle around with it chemically to make it into a drug you can take orally.

They argue that if they can't stop other people using the gene in medicine then they cant afford to carry out the R+D.

So the media latch on to this and call it 'patenting life' and 'privatising genes'. The genetic sequence is not private, as far as I can tell, but the patents are designed to stop people making things from gene sequences.

Baz

Re:Cripes (1)

SomeoneGotMyNick (200685) | more than 13 years ago | (#623012)

You also can't collaborate with others to duplicate genes.

The least of which means you have to pay royalties for unprotected sex if she gets pregnant.

Patenting discoveries... (5)

HvidNat (148511) | more than 13 years ago | (#623013)

You've always been permitted to patent discoveries. The majority of chemical compounds for which patents have been issued have been isolated from nature (and, often, subsequent patents issued on chemical modifications thereof). The notion is that it's patentable because the "inventor" may not have initially created the compound, but he did recognize it, isolate it, and determine a use for it. Strange but true. In fact, very few patents issued in the past 100 years (in any country) cover something entirely novel -- just novel uses for existing things or modifications of existing things.

As for gene patents, there is a wide range of them. The majority of genes (patented or otherwise), have a known (or likely) function assigned to them -- in part because it's hard to make the argument that something is a gene without providing evidence that it is (in fact, in the US you can't make such a claim without presenting the evidence). All of the actual genes patented have a known function with one notable exception: cDNA sequences (expressed sequence tags).

ESTs are, by virtue of experimental design, known to be sequences of expressed genes (at least transcribed DNA). About 3/4 of the ESTs you can produce for a given organism will be readily assignable a putative function as well as info about tissues where the gene is expressed, conditions where the expression occurs, subcellular localization, often times it can even be assigned a place in a particular biochemical pathway. The value lies in the fact that the ESTs can be subsequently used to find tremendous amounts of information regarding regulatory pathways, co-expression, and eve, if you are clever, where the other 1/4 of uncharacterized ESTs come into the equiation. ESTs can also be used as the basis of a slew of technologies that permit researches to visualize the differential activity of all genes in an organism in response to environmental and developmental factors. ESTs themselves can even produce simple drug targets. This type of information and the systems built up around it are probably justifiably patentable.

That said, many corporations patent large collections of genomic sequences as well as ESTs. This is raw DNA from the organism that has been sequenced in tiny pieces and the tiny pieces assembled into large chunks. Why? Well, not every gene is expressed in high enough levels to be readibly detectable in EST libraries and if you want to find them, you need the genomic sequence. The genomic sequence also gives you information about the spatial arrangement of genes, large scale structure of information storage including synteny (where a huge chunk of one genome appears in another genome but rearrangements), colocation of genes (genes in similar pathways tend to congregate), mapping mutations, etc. Genomic information can, if properly handled, also be used to contribute to gene discovery and the whole-genome profiling of gene expression.

I suppose the question is whether or not the inherent an immediate utility of sequence information to molecular biologists and bioinformaticists meets the minimal requirements for patentability. I would say that in the US the answer would be yes, since the information represents an act of discovery (the sequences) and creation (all the sequences are man-made constructs derived from natural sources and annotated in machine-readable form) for which there exists a working model (the constructed libraries and subsequent information derived tehre from) and a definable utility (sometimes a target for drug discovery, but predominantly the utility is for conducting sequence-based research).

That said... I also beleive that there are many technical grounds upon which someone can essentially generate a parallel set of libraries and information and claim they have something new, and defense against that might be tricky. I'm not sure whether spending the cash to patent all of this information is worth while. Though I'm certain it's beneficial to the consumer since the information becomes public knowledge through the patent process rather than allow companies to conduct genetic entirely out of public view.

Re:Grrr. (2)

Fat Rat Bastard (170520) | more than 13 years ago | (#623024)

Too bad Columbus didn't patent the "New World."

Not so clear cut (1)

SecurityGuy (217807) | more than 13 years ago | (#623025)

From the very page you quote (http://www.ornl.gov/hgmis/elsi/patents.html):
Patent holders are being allowed to patent a part of nature --a basic constituent of life
I'm sorry, but this is another egregious violation by the USPTO. Patents are for inventions. If you string together base pairs and create a new gene, fine, you've invented something, patent away. If you look inside an existing cell, read what's already there, and copy it, you've discovered something. If you extract only the cDNA portion, you've still done nothing more than discover an existing gene. You have no rights to that sequence, in spite of what the idiots at the USPTO may say.

I'm not opposed to patenting biological inventions. For example, putting if you modify the genes for a plant to produce better quality or more produce, I think it reasonable to patent that plant. Just reading the DNA of an organism doesn't give you rights to the pattern.

I wonder, if I build a big telescope and see a planet no one has seen before, can I patent it? If I go to a rain forest and discover an insect no one has seen before and it turns out that the insect has commercial use, can I patent the bug? Patenting genes doesn't sound significantly different.

Enough is enough already.

Re:Grrr. (1)

rmstar (114746) | more than 13 years ago | (#623026)

the reason for it is to provide an incentive for companies to research genes.If there was no such thing as a gene patent, then it would probably be much longer before we got a cure for cancer and whatever other genetic diseases there are.

Maybe we would be bether off without this incentives. Research would be more serious, and the behavior less predatory.

What I think happens is that patents are the incentive, or rather the motive, of these companies, and that they have pushed this sort of legislation and lobbyed for it because they see the possibility of making shiploads of money with this knowledge.

It is very strange, because breeding is a sort of genetic ingeneering in slow motion, and it has worked perfect throughout the history of mankind, yet nobody would come to the idea of patenting a new breed gotten through traditional methods, even though it's safer, the quallity is higher, and the acceptance of the method complete. But then again most of the modern economy is based on selling people things they don't need and whithout which they would be probably better off.

Personally I do not believe that they will ever be able to harness this cancer-curing posibilities or those of gene therapy because the genes and the rules governing their expression are far too chaotic and intrincate. I think the dificulties are simmilar to those encountered when trying to predict weather for periods longer than a few days.

rmstar

Re:Grrr. (1)

ideut (240078) | more than 13 years ago | (#623027)

still waiting for the punchline...

The punchline? Erm, oh, "does the genetic code run linux?". No, that's crap.

How about "I'd sure like to open source Natalie Portman's genetic code".

Imagine a genome. Imagine a cluster of genomes. Imagine a cluster of genomes stampeding the patent office.

Or was that just your sig?

Re:This is GOOD! - yes, in theory (1)

RedLaggedTeut (216304) | more than 13 years ago | (#623028)

That is the theory. But someone will have to put up a fight for this issue in 20 years, because the company might actually try to heap a new patent on the old once they discover the purpose of the gene.

That might read like "Way a Method of using gene TCGA (see patent USP648164678) to produce neurotransmitter GCAKJD."

IMHO, the patent offices should put out the red flag and simply declare they are just there for registering patent claims, instead of validating them - something which is a difficult job.

Silver Lining (1)

vlnc (211067) | more than 13 years ago | (#623029)

By the time there are useful applications for these patents, the patent rights will have expired.

Wait a minute!!! (3)

krystal_blade (188089) | more than 13 years ago | (#623030)

This could really wind up screwing over those idiots at Genotek, or whatever their name is.

If they want to patent genes like they "made" them, that's fine by me.

I just keep thinking of the handsome settlement I'll be getting when I can prove in court that they "forced" their genes onto me, and I'm now stuck wearing glasses.

On the other hand, it's also a good thing that these companies have gotten ALL these patents on things they didn't create. Helps bring the current system down a little further.

Patenting a gene is kind of like patenting a color. Sure, you can claim that anyone using your color (cornflower for instance) has to pay you money. However, that is not to say that someone mixing Navy Blue (which is GPL'd) and a bit of Sun Yellow, and some Orange can't achieve the same effect.

Genetics works almost the same way. While they can own the patent on something all day long, they cannot enforce it on anyone who can reproduce the same effect purely by accident.

On the other hand, finding out who patented genes for sickle cell anemia would be pretty damn funny. Sue them twice. Once for being stupid.

"So, you are responsible for sickle cell anemia, which affects primarily black people."
"Well, we didn't actually create it, sir. We just kind of found it, and decided that we would patent it."
"So, you obtained a patent on something you didn't create, in order to be able to hold something over the black community?"
"No, we just wanted to patent the actual genes."
"So, you're trying to extract money from victims?"
"No, sir. We're trying to do research with our patented item."

"That you didn't create."

"Yes"

"That no one else now has access to but you."

"Yes."

"That affects primarily the black community."

"Yes, that is a statistical fact."

"So tell me, how are we to beleive that you first locate something in the black community, exploit it to gain a patent, to extract more money from other research on the same subject, then, file a patent claiming ownership, then turn around, and deny that you created your patented item, but only found it, and are somehow not responsible for these 4 million sickle cell anemia victims in front of you?"

krystal_blade

patent on sex (1)

grazzy (56382) | more than 13 years ago | (#623031)

Patents are pending on genes controlling processes in the human heart, teeth, tongue, colon, skin, brain, bone, ear, lung, liver, kidney, sperm, blood and immune system

Probably it'll be illegal to have sex without paying a fee to your nice friens at the gen-department. (Unless you volunteer for sterilisation :)

Re:Patent held by.. (4)

nagora (177841) | more than 13 years ago | (#623032)

The creator. GOD!

Which one? I think Ptah is still locked in a "prior art" suit with Jehovah. And don't even mention the whole Marduk thing (a lot of us think Jehovah only got away with that one 'cause Moses was such a tricky lawyer).

TWW

Patenting in this case is stupig (not a typo!) (2)

crovira (10242) | more than 13 years ago | (#623033)

This is a desperate grab by the ignorant (who can't even tell tobbaco companies that smoking is not a good idea,) to get a corner on something they can't describe, don't understand, haven't a clue of what it really does or how.

Its the triumph of greed over common sense.

Re:Some clarification on "gene patents" (1)

LHOOQtius_ov_Borg (73817) | more than 13 years ago | (#623034)

Isolation of naturally occurring DNA patterns should not be patentable under the patent law provisions which prohibit the raw products of nature. Elements in the periodic table, even transuranic elements which must be isolated in a laboratory, and for some of which there is no evidence as to whether or not they even form in nature, are not patentable. Why? They are raw products of nature. The same should hold for DNA sequences isolated from naturally occurring organisms.

Modification of DNA sequences (of which
"purification" would be a form) would allow for patentability under existing patent law - or, at least, COULD allow for it if the resulting genes meets the legal challenges of utlity, novelty, and nonobviousness.

As with computer software algorithm patents, there are a few legal approaches to take in fighting them. One is that they are processes and not products, and thus not eligible for patentability - but the courts don't seem to be willing to buy this argument, though there are certainly some legal scholars who do. Another is that they are naturally occurring (that mathematical algorithms and DNA sequences both are naturally occurring), but this argument only applies to sequences found in nature, and in the case of algorithms - it is even trickier to decide what is "naturally occurring" and what isn't. Yet another is to protect a smaller, but fundamental, set of the domain from patents by selectively attacking specific patents and saying they are too fundamental to the domain to meet patent qualifications of nonobviousness and novelty. The patent system as it stands seems to be most amenable to this approach, though obviously it does the least to address wider issues of whether or not these things legitimately succumb to patentability.

However, letter of the law aside for a moment, biological patents are an interesting and contentious legal and bioethical issue. The questions of the ethical and moral implications of patenting the algorithms for generating living things are obviously leading to heated debates. This argument will also erupt with respects to software patents if true Artificial Intelligence is ever devised... in fact, some are already trying to lump in current Evolutionary Computing / Artificial Life code in such ethical arguments. Law and Ethics are not isomorphic, but legislators and judges certainly are succeptable to ethical and moral arguments, and thus this part of the discussion is also important to trying to map (or influence) future legal direction in these two oddly related areas.

A few good resources:

http://www.nih.gov/sigs/bioethics/
http://bioethics.gov/
http://www.law.ou.edu/lists/biolaw.html
http://genetics.law.utas.edu.au/
http://www.ethics.ubc.ca/brynw/law.html
http://www2.ari.net/foley/

Though it is a journal article that requires payment, this article may be interesting to people interested in biopatents:
http://www.biolawbusiness.com/abstract3-4.html#p atenability

Re:Weird (2)

DrQu+xum (218745) | more than 13 years ago | (#623035)

If I had modpoints, you'd be getting some serious karma along the (+5, funny) road.

But, getting back on topic.

If a company was to create a completely new gene, even out of an existing one, they *should* have the right to patent the brand new gene.

Problem is, the pharmaceuticals will make everyone pay out the a$$ for the rights to the gene...
...and when someone reverse-engineers the gene, creates it another way, and posts the processes necessary on the 'Net, the pharmaceuticals will sue the creators under the DMCA.

Just another scenario, my fellow /.ers, of the Possible Abuses of Government & Industry(TM).
Thus sprach DrQu+xum, SID=218745.

Re:Grrr. (1)

rodgerd (402) | more than 13 years ago | (#623036)

For now. Copyright-related bribery has already show the way: wealthy companies with a large copyright portfolio have gradually pushed copyrights from the point where they form a protection for the artist to the point where people born tomorrow will die with prewar copyrights unexpired.

And, in fact, the term of patents has already been extended more than once in my lifetime. Any company with a valuable patent (perhaps on a gene configuration your kids evolve naturally) will doubtless bribe whoever they need to for patents to extend another 5, 10, 20, whatever years.

But lawyers are your friends (2)

Anne Marie (239347) | more than 13 years ago | (#623037)

We really ought to instate some kind of national Beat a Lawyer day.

Now, that's rather shortsighted of you. Almost all civil-rights progress in the last hundred years is directly attributable to the tireless efforts of lawyers, as is most civil-rights legislation, which is secured by legislators who are ex-lawyers. Just because a few greedy ones are fighting for others' rights to claim a patent on your gonads doesn't mean the majority are deserving of your disrespect and outright hatred.

Ask yourself where you'll be in twenty years if there are no lawyers. Heck, look no further than the very topic of this article: gene patents. Governments won't stop awarding these illegitimate rights to corporations; you'll just be without the means to defend them from you. It's entirely unlike civil disarmament, where at least the government has consistently demonstrated it will act on citizens' calls for distress, and so we may safely disarm both sides of the conflict. In the realm of patents, you'll be left completely alone without any defense. There's a reason why even the indigent have the right to legal counsel (see Gideon v. Wainright): it is a truly necessary part of citizenship.

To be true, lawyers are a force of nature worthy of respect no less than the plummeting waters of a waterfall, which can either flood a village or be harnassed to produce hydro-electric energy. But is a world without lawyers really a world in which you want to live? Is a world without advocates really a world in which you want to live? The weak will be left to the mercy of the strong, and we'll be in exactly the same situation where we are today, except both sides will be even more ignorant of their rights and privileges, and disputes will get even sillier.

If you disapprove of gene patents, then contact your congresswoman and demand they be excised from patent law. Don't tear down the greatest edifice of the modern American state.

Re:Craziness (1)

AftanGustur (7715) | more than 13 years ago | (#623046)

Those "artificial" molecules, exist nowhere except in human DNA.

You just can't patent "e90a0f0e1f......" up until you have all of Microsofts win.com file.


--
Why pay for drugs when you can get Linux for free ?

Safe Sex! (1)

Eminence (225397) | more than 13 years ago | (#623047)

Practice safe sex! Not only you can avoid numerous diseases - but also paying royalties...

This is only logical. (2)

Kickasso (210195) | more than 13 years ago | (#623048)

Genes are but software. US allows software patents. Why not gene patents?
--

most will be denied (2)

peter303 (12292) | more than 13 years ago | (#623049)

I thought the patent office was getting strict about only granting gene patents that were part of a *proven* medical function.

Re:Grrr. (2)

Jeremy Erwin (2054) | more than 13 years ago | (#623050)

You want an incentive? Isn't the honor of seeing a journal article attached to your name incentive enough? And if you can't get a journal to print your letter or article on the new gene, perhaps, your discovery doesn't really merit a patent either.

Scientific research is not driven primarily by commercial institutions. It's driven by academics. Gene liscences, patents, and other concepts of intellectual property stifle the academic process.

I'm really surprised that Genset has patents on 36000 sequences. Considering tht the median number of human genes is about 53 thousand [ensembl.org] , this seems a bit high. Of course, some of Gensets sequences may duplicate genes. More likely however, is the possibility that Genset has patented a goodly number of introns (non-coding sequences).

Re:Grrr. (2)

Galvatron (115029) | more than 13 years ago | (#623051)

If Ug had patented the color of the daytime sky 30K years ago, would the rest of us have to pay a fee to view it?

Nope, his patent would have expired 299,983 years ago :) Patents only last 17 years, so this "squatting" strategy seems a little silly. By the time you can actually bring a product to the market based on it, you've probably only got another 5-8 years before everyone else gets to use the results of your research.

Re:Grrr. (2)

0xdeadbeef (28836) | more than 13 years ago | (#623052)

Then they should patent the specific medical techniques that make use of the genes, not lay claim to the genes themselves.

As a Libertairan, I'm sure you recognize that there is no such thing as "cruel" in business, only legal or illegal. If they take a risk on dubious patents, they've got nobody to blame but themselves.
--
Bush's assertion: there ought to be limits to freedom

You are now forbidden to breed. (1)

SIGBUS (8236) | more than 13 years ago | (#623053)

The World Government Individual Genome Index indicates that your genetic makeup contains 1,984 patented genes. Report to your local World Government office for summary castration.

--

Re:Wait wait wait... (1)

Zocalo (252965) | more than 13 years ago | (#623054)

Perhaps the true GM-free organic frenzy hasn't hit the US yet, but in the UK it's a well-formed bandwagon these days.

Yeah, right! The only thing you can eat or drink in the UK that you can guarantee is free of GM material is water that you have distilled yourself. I used to provide IT support for a company in the dairy industry and here are some facts to give you an idea:

  1. We genetically select the genes in bull semen from over 100 traits such as udder size, shape, yield, digestive properties of the cow.
  2. Because the digestive traits of the resultant calf were pre-selected, we provide a genetically tuned grass seed, that breaks down in the cow's gut better, producing a higher milk yield.
  3. Because the properties of the grass are also known, we can provide fertilizer that provides the grass with the optimal chemicals that it needs to concentrate just the right balance to chemicals to encourage digestion.
  4. Because we are using the fertilizer we are...
Well, you get the (over simplified) idea. GM is right across the food chain from the start; even if you buy non-GM fruit and veg; chances are that some GM tinkering is involved in the production of something you are eating, and most probably a huge chunk.

Oh, and this goes on in the US too, because the bought out its US counterpart, and their product range covered pretty much the same stuff.

Bon appetit!

Ban Patenting Non-Human Created Lifeforms (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#623055)

If you didn't make it, you can't patent it. Simple rule. Therefore the only one able to patent lifeforms that currently exist is God, or Evolution, or The Great Spirit, or whatever you want to call it. Needless to say, that does not include any humans or corporations... (If lifeforms are not an example of pre-existing works that are in the public domain, nothing is...)

In a related story... (1)

basilfawlty (154213) | more than 13 years ago | (#623056)

Writer/director Andrew Niccol and producers Danny DeVito, Michael Shamberg, and Stacey Sher, the makers of the motion picture Gattaca, filed lawsuits against several thousand biotechnology companies claiming violation of intellectual property laws. The suit alleges that biotechnology companies who patent genes took the idea from the Columbia film. In Gattaca, members of a genetically perfect elite are manufactured using genetic technology.

Devito, speaking on behalf of the other plaintiffs, said earlier in a press conference, "It is clear that these companies took their idea straight from Mr. Niccols script. They hope to cash in on human genetic codes just like the companies in our film." A lawyer for the four said, "There is a substantial similarity between the actions of the companies in question and the fictional companies depicted in my client's film. We believe that the similarity is substantial enough to be prosecuted under current intellectual property laws."

Ethan Hawke, who starred in the movie, stated flatly, "I have quite a bit of stock in Genset. Those people are silly idealists who are afraid of the brave new world." Hawke has not been on speaking terms with Niccols or Devito since being cast as Jerome, the lovable but genetically imperfect protagonist of the film.

Legal experts were divided as to whether the case had any merit. Professor Malcolm Scott of the Royal Institute of Philosophy thinks so. "1984, Brave New World: those were scary books. I hope they lock these people away and throw away the key!" he said in an interview.

Spokespersons for Columbia/Tristar Pictures were not available for comment.


Give Pisa chants.

Even if God did patent life (3)

Hairy_Potter (219096) | more than 13 years ago | (#623057)

Surely his patents have expired by now, as he died 1967 years ago, for your sins.

Does anyone know if the patent office renews patents when you are born again?

How can you patent a human gene!$%? (3)

kidlinux (2550) | more than 13 years ago | (#623058)

We all have prior use!

Re:Grrr. (1)

beebware (149208) | more than 13 years ago | (#623059)

That was my understand of the law - and of the office I'm currently situated in (the online news section of a major UK newspaper group). Perhaps the Patent Office [patents.gov.uk] just grants all patents applied for unless someone contests them - then they pull the basics. I'm not 100% sure.
At least I haven't seen any connection between InGen and a certain type of DNA...
Richy C. [beebware.com]
--

Re:How can these Patents stand? (1)

cattlepr0d (195325) | more than 13 years ago | (#623060)

Erm, seems to me that RSA discovered their lucrative little algorithm (after the GCHQ people discovered it, of course)... unless they invented number theory, of course...

Weird (2)

Daath (225404) | more than 13 years ago | (#623061)

Can they patent genes that are currently in my personal gene pool? That scares me. When I have children, do I have to pay royalty to them?

Well,.... (2)

ZoneGray (168419) | more than 13 years ago | (#623063)

Well, if some company is gonna patent my DNA, then I oughta at least get some stock options.

Craziness (2)

imipak (254310) | more than 13 years ago | (#623064)

An apologist for the patent-meisters was on the radio this a.m. ; he kept referring to it as "patenting artificial molecules that are similar to human genes". He explicitly said (IIRC) that they were NOT patenting chunks of human DNA per se.

Someone with the mad PCR skillz clue me in?
--
If the good lord had meant me to live in Los Angeles

Re:How can these Patents stand? (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 13 years ago | (#623065)

I think its actually a patent on how to synthesise the genes.

Re:Grrr. (1)

kidlinux (2550) | more than 13 years ago | (#623066)

I doubt it.. Don't patents expire after 20 years or so? ;)

Sort of... (2)

Galvatron (115029) | more than 13 years ago | (#623070)

Sure, you're using your genes, but not conciously. If you can recite for me your full code, as well as breaking it down into chunks, each defining a single trait (no need to know what the trait is, just as long as you know it's there), then you've got prior art. I agree that it's silly, I think IP has serious problems from the get-go, but I'm not sure that gene patenting is any more ridiculous than any other type.

cDNA vs gene (2)

loose_change (196779) | more than 13 years ago | (#623071)

lost_it gave us a quick answer on what this means here [slashdot.org] , but I don't think that's what you're asking.

Mini molecular biology lesson:

  • chromosomal DNA is transcribed into RNA
  • the RNA is a mirror image of one strand of the duplex chromosomal DNA
  • RNA is spliced and modified before it leaves the nucleus of the cell
  • The spliced RNA is translated into a protein

These concepts are important because the gene is the whole piece of chromosomal DNA which contains all the information necessary for gene product expression. This includes control sequences which do not become part of the RNA, introns which are spliced out, and the information for splice variants. Coding sequences, which end up in the RNA, are mixed with non-coding sequences, which are spliced out. But different coding sequences can be spliced together, and one gene can actually produce several products based on how the RNA is spliced before translation. In some ways, proteins (gene products) are produced by fairly modular bits of genetic code.

In fact, most molecular biology (recombinant DNA) use does not involve changing the cDNA (and thus the protein product) so much as engineering ways to get the cDNA into a situation where protein can be made. That means giving it viral or bacterial expression control sequences.

What is generally called a gene in these discussions is not what I would call a gene. Instead, what is often patented is the complimentary DNA, or cDNA. cDNA is made by reverse-transcription, and is a copy of the spliced RNA, but is not the gene. The cDNA is generally patented, and biotech firms try to cover every possible use or version of it -- viral expression, gene therapy, recombinant protein production, etc. Technically these are synthetic products, made by human engineering and not found in nature. However, the techniques are now in the realm of the bloody obvious to anyone in the field, and what is patented are generally theoretical future applications using known technology.

That's the major bogusness in the whole realm. People can patent sequences which appear to be part of an expresed gene with no known function, based on some possible future benefit.

Human eggdrops? (1)

draycodotcom (254937) | more than 13 years ago | (#623072)

I think this whole genome thing is a great idea. We could have our own little "robot people" walking around... 90% of people have no clue what an eggdrop is, so let's make them Real! I wanna be the first in line when Mattel comes out with a "home gene splicing kit". ---- insert witty quote here ----

Re:Patenting discoveries... (2)

nagora (177841) | more than 13 years ago | (#623073)

You've always been permitted to patent discoveries.

No, you haven't. It takes a peculiar and spectacular leap of the imagination to allow the patenting of discoveries, otherwise all sorts of thing of finacial use would have been patented. Actually, that's not true; all it really takes is stupidity. Handily enough stupidity is the current official policy of the USPO.

The majority of chemical compounds for which patents have been issued have been isolated from nature

Actually there are almost no such cases. Chemical patents are normally granted for processes, not for the resultants, or even for a particular set of reactants.

TWW

Re:Gibson, here we come (1)

Project_2501 (128153) | more than 13 years ago | (#623074)

Ahh yes but it will create a demand for DeckJockeys to go on Matrix runs for mucho dinero.

Light dawns... (1)

Raymond Luxury Yacht (112037) | more than 13 years ago | (#623075)

...on Marblehead.

If they spend $1 billion on developing that, are you saying they should give it away free of charge? How do we then invest in the next generation? How do we benefit from gene research in the long run? How is research into genes funded at all?

See, now put that way, it more or less makes sense. It is understandable that you need to make money in order to continue to work on such projects. My fear (and perhaps misunderstanding) of the issue is that the people who own the patent abuse it.

For example, you mention a vaccine for HIV. Truely something which is in dire need for EVERY nation. Now, let's say MegaBigCorp comes up with that vaccine... Who says they have to charge $5? What's to keep them from charging $50,000? Yes, they want to recoup their spending quick and it is better to have $5 several million times than $50,000 several thousand times, as far as PR. But their margin of profit would be better if they had to produce fewer batches of the vaccine while charging sky-high prices. And lets face it, big corperations aren't about actually "helping" people. Any company working on an HIV vaccine expects to make insane amounts of money, NOT help the world.

Not that I am a cynic or anything ;-)

Why genes should be patented (2)

vandelais (164490) | more than 13 years ago | (#623076)

http://www.hgsi.com/patents/index.html also check this linkBIO (Biotechnology Industry Organization) has written a document about gene-based patents - Primer: Genome and Genetic Research, Patent Protection and 21st Century Medicine http://www.bio.org/genomics/primer.html For comments on the Clinton/Blair statement about patents and the genome click here (updated 8/4/2000) http://www.hgsi.com/patents/statements.html The mission of Human Genome Sciences is to treat and cure disease by bringing new gene-based medicines to patients around the world.

Re:How? (1)

Thackeri (203958) | more than 13 years ago | (#623077)

There's an explanation [guardianunlimited.co.uk] of Gene patenting linked from that article that explains many of the issues in a form that even I can understand!

Re:Genetic land grab (1)

mazur (99215) | more than 13 years ago | (#623078)

The real valuable discoveries are not in the base pairs, but how they code for amino acids, how those amino acid chains cause the protein to fold, how that folded structure causes the protein to behave in the bigger metabolic picture. These areas are where the real work is done and these are the things that should be rewarded with patents.

I must disagree with this: those things you name are things that happen anyway, and have been happening over millions of years. Just discovering the relationship between a specific sequence and what is does may be clever, but it still only a scientific discovery, like getting handed an internal combustion machine and figuring out how it works.

Now if they thought up a new working sequence, which actually added to the gene pool, like a gene for Xray vision (to use a popular second rate scifi feature much craved after by us sexstarved male geeks, not that it'd work as advertised), that would be innovation and therefore merit a patent, but simply finding out what does what is not innovation, though it can lead to it.

Stefan.
It takes a lot of brains to enjoy satire, humor and wit-

160k patent applications? (1)

magi (91730) | more than 13 years ago | (#623079)

160,000 applications when there are supposed to be just 60,000 genes in humans. Some overlapping, eh? Hmm, I guess they might want patent specific alleles too. Interesting. I can't understand this thing though; evolution "designed" humans, guided by the natural selection, right? Since when has it been appropriate to patent someone (or something) else's design? Another thing comes to my mind. Some researchers developed an evolutionary algorithm that evolves eletronic circuits. They evolved some complex filters which had actually been patented by human engineers some decades ago. If evolution is such a good designer, why is it acceptable to steal its inventions under your patent, while this isn't accepted with regards to human designer?

Re:Grrr. (1)

NearlyHeadless (110901) | more than 13 years ago | (#623080)

While I agree that companies shouldn't be granted patents on just the discovered gene without any intended use, it will take a lot of time and money to develop genes into treatments. Who will invest that money if anybody can copy their results for free?
Scientific research is not driven primarily by commercial institutions. It's driven by academics.
That's not clear to me. Drug companies and other biomedical firms do a lot of research as well as development. IBM, Texas Instruments, Bell Labs and others do lots of basic research.
Gene liscences, patents, and other concepts of intellectual property stifle the academic process.
That's not clear to me. Universities hold patents and make money off licensing them. Do you have any evidence of this?

In general I wish people on Slashdot would realize that for all their rhetoric, there is more research and more innovation produced here in the U.S. than in countries with less developed IP systems.

Just claimingthat the system stifles innovation doesn't make it so.

Re:This is only logical. (2)

Mad Hughagi (193374) | more than 13 years ago | (#623081)

This is very true in a fundamental sense. Seeing as genes are simply sequences of 4 different bases and computer code is simply sequences of 1s and 0s there is no inherent difference between the two.

Once again this falls into the grey area since the judgement of it is beyond our system. It's very interesting to see how we apply our capitalist ideology to research (most scientists must also find it very sad). The point of the matter is that we live in a system where everything is run by money, not by the concept of the greater good. Sure it would be nice if everyone worked together and there was no reason to hide away information from the 'competitors', but we live in a system that utilizes this mechanism to push forward. I don't think that we could maintain capitalism without having these patents in research - perhaps it's topics like these that will further display the moral and ethical weaknesses of the capitalistic system.

Patent Application #6 (3)

Frums (112820) | more than 13 years ago | (#623082)

PATENT APPLICATION SUBMITTED TO USPTO

Date: 1/06/00

Patented Submitted By: God (insert name of preferred deity)

Patent Numbers: 6, 6.1, 6.2

Patent #6 - Genome
This patent covers a series of molecule particles combined in such a way as to provide pattern or blue print which through cascading effects eventually produce a functional human being. These sequences will be referred to henceforth as Genomes. The exact sequence of these molecules is controlled by patent #6.1, the HEA (Human Encryption Algorithm)

Patent #6.1 - Human Encryption Algorithm
Patent 6.1 covers the HEA or Human Encryption Algorithm. The HEA is an asymmetric encryption algorithm which takes for input two genetically signed Genomes (Genetic Signatures are generated though the HEA encryoption of an individual's Genome). The algorithm will then produce a new Genome that is a unique combination of the two input Genomes. Application of the HEA Algorithm, and the signing process are patented under patent number 6.2, Genome Transmission Protocol.

Patent #6.2 - Genome Transmission Protocol.
This section has been classified TOP SECRET and is being held until the NSA has determined if application of the GTP can be used safely in public society. You can be sure we will be testing the Genome Transmission Protocol extensively to determine its security.Umh, we are also accepting applications for Security Enhancement Experiment Partners for this testing program. Please send resume, and photograph, to ADDRESS CLASSIFIED.

:)

Patents are good (5)

biodork (25036) | more than 13 years ago | (#623083)

Several Things:
I think patents, in this case, are a good thing. For example, Genentech patented EPO, and on the basis of this patent produced drugs (recombinant EPO). The time line for drug production, clinical trials, etc... is around 10-15 years, with a price tage or many millions. WHY, without protection from other people piggybacking on your work, would you do this? It is fine to claim that people are blindly patenting, but from a personal perspective of actually being one of those evil people, I think that this is an incorrect statement. We, and everyone else that does this DOES HAVE SOME IDEA. Does that mean that we have all the answers? NO, but to get those answers takes years and dollars, and not insignificant numbers of either of them. Without patent protection, drug companies will not get within a million miles of the gene. All that can be produced with non-patented genes are generic drugs, on which drug companies do not make money. You can argue they make too much money, but there is a reason that the US is at the forefront of the medical world, and money is a pretty good explanation. I do beleive selfish motivation produces the drugs, as that produces the money, and gets you the recognition. This is not like a software problem, where it will be solved by next year. Each gene WILL take years and millions of $, and with a failure rate (defined as not usefull for making a drug out of) at around 80%, you need some protection for the ones that work or you will never make any money.

EST patents are still under question, with no defense of them being mounted, but I would agree that they suck. You have no function on them at all, so patents on them are wrong. For whole genes, function is a lot more clear (although real far from crystal clear).

On a related note: If you get govenment grants (majority of researchers in US) you are required to patent, or otherwise protect your work BY LAW. Failure to do so will get you, and your university, in trouble.

Re:This is NOT GOOD! (3)

Aceticon (140883) | more than 13 years ago | (#623084)

If company A has the patent on gene X1, why should company B try to develop new applications from gene X1???

If a company patents a gene or sequence, the potencial revenues that any other company would have if it developed an application from that gene or sequence are reduced. The tendency will be that each company will only investigate applications from their own "pool of patented genes" (to maximize returns).

How can the reduction in the number of resources being thrown at a certain problem (e.g. crack a certain gene) increase research eficiency?

If two or more genes which are necessary for a certain process are patented by different companies how many years do you think will be needed before any application is developed for those genes? (I bet it's more than 17 ...)
Worse, in this situation it is quite likely that one or more of the companies involved will start researching THEIR OWN GENE (it's their's 'cause they bought it) only to find later on that they need another gene which is OWNED by another company - quite likelly they will just scrap the investigation and go try a "more promising" gene (what a waste)

What Me Worry? (2)

AlphaInsight (140726) | more than 13 years ago | (#623085)

Spoken a few years from now............"What do you mean my son is in copyright violation!" "Well sir your son has genes that we've patented." "HELLLLLOOOOOOOO! It's not like I'm sitting at home splicing genes together with tweezers and duct tape! My wife and I had a child!!!" "Oh, so you do admit to patent infringment then!" .......and so on and so forth.

Cripes (2)

SanLouBlues (245548) | more than 13 years ago | (#623086)

Dangit, I just got hit with a suit preventing me from creating copies of this gene. Looks like no more new skin cells for me!

Wait wait wait... (1)

Raymond Luxury Yacht (112037) | more than 13 years ago | (#623087)

They f*cking what? They are patenting human genes??

Oh that's rich... I'm not a big law person (though I have broken my share... I'd have broken more but there aren't any sheep in Boston), but how can you patent something which has been in existence for millions of years? I mean, if it isn't an "invention", if you weren't the one who discovered it, how can you patent it? Does that mean I can patent the moon?

From the article: "Alongside human genes, patents are being sought by organisations [sic], overwhelmingly from rich countries, on hundreds of thousands of animal and plant genes, including those in staple crops such as rice and wheat. "

So, does that mean that one day someone can charge for wheat? Or charge others to tinker with the genetic code for wheat? I mean ye gods, I may be crazy, but this is f*cking RETARDED!

That's it... I'm patenting the fart, then sit outside Taco Bell and rake in the cash.

Re:Weird (2)

Kepps98 (111427) | more than 13 years ago | (#623088)

I wonder what the cease and desist letters will look like...

"We demand you cease and desist your infringement of our client's intellectual property. What you flippantly call 'living' is clearly nothing more than a blatant disregard for our client's patent rights."

We really ought to instate some kind of national Beat a Lawyer day.

Gibson, here we come (2)

Gefiltefish (125066) | more than 13 years ago | (#623089)

Is it just me, or do we get closer and closer to Gibson's grim notion of the future?

Next thing you know, the wealthy corporate types will be buying gene sequences to make their children beautiful and intelligent.

I swear, that man must be a prophet.

Genetic land grab (1)

scotay (195240) | more than 13 years ago | (#623090)

This genetic land grab sounds like the feudal kingdoms that use the control strategic locations to control trade. Need to move your trade goods through my strategic pass? Pay me or find some other route to get your goods to their destination.

The scenario of patenting the sequence itself doesn't make sense. The real valuable discoveries are not in the base pairs, but how they code for amino acids, how those amino acid chains cause the protein to fold, how that folded structure causes the protein to behave in the bigger metabolic picture. These areas are where the real work is done and these are the things that should be rewarded with patents.

US Patent #2303827873498277393 - Trees are green (2)

smartin (942) | more than 13 years ago | (#623091)

Please note that I have recently received a patent on the fact that trees are green and intend to encorce it to the max. From now on, anyone that wishes to depict trees in the colour green must apply for a license from my new company Trees Are Green, Inc. anyone caught depicting green trees without a license will get their asses sued.

Re:Weird (3)

beebware (149208) | more than 13 years ago | (#623092)

You've heard the saying 'Some people shouldn't be allowed to breed', the saying is now 'People who can't pay the royaltys are not allowed to breed'. :)
Richy C. [beebware.com]
--

It all about the money (1)

knurr (161310) | more than 13 years ago | (#623093)

In the end its about the money greedy bastard putting profit in front of humanity(nothing new thought. Just expect anycooll medicine that comes from this to be so expensive that you would have to take a mortgage out on it.

Re:Grrr. (3)

ch-chuck (9622) | more than 13 years ago | (#623094)

probably the same way the feds can 'auction' off electromagnetic spectrum to the highest bidder.

Patent silliness (1)

Gordonjcp (186804) | more than 13 years ago | (#623098)

It's just like two years ago, the whole "Dolly the Sheep" business.
Biotech companies claimed that spending X million to patent cloning was a breakthrough, environmentalists went apeshit about bending nature's laws, and sheep farmers went,
"Yes but putting a daddy sheep in a field with 100 or so mummy sheep works much better and is cheaper".
No-one listened to them though. They were too busy reading tabloids.

Why gene patents hamper medical research (1)

AxelBoldt (1490) | more than 13 years ago | (#623099)

I understand that many gene patents are of the following type: "This here is obviously the sequence of a gene. While I don't know exactly what it does, I patent all future uses of that gene. Those future uses might include using the gene to create a (possibly modified) product protein of medical value."

In the presense of such a patent, no other pharmaceutical company will do research on the possible medical uses of the gene's product, since they would be doing their competitor's work. Instead of many companies racing to create a drug, you now have only a single patent holder without competition sitting there and taking his time.

--

Re:Grrr. (2)

Masem (1171) | more than 13 years ago | (#623101)

Patents now expire 20 years after the initial filing process has begun; it used to be that patents expired 17 years after the patent awardee acknolwedged the acceptence of the patent, however, with the way the system worked, the awardee could 'forget' to send in their acknowledgement of the patent, and the USPTO would charge them a small ( Now, with 20 years from the initial application, it takes about 1 to 2 years to complete and finalize a patent application, so companies gain a year or so over 17, but they have no oppurtunity to extend the patent lifetime.

Amgen (2)

scottcain (209570) | more than 13 years ago | (#623103)

Not that it matters much, but Amgen are the guys who hold the patent on EPO.

Fails the "Prior Art" test. (1)

Martin Spamer (244245) | more than 13 years ago | (#623104)

What happened to the "Prior Art" test ?

Since somebody somewhere must already have these genes these Patents they should be rejected automatically because they fail the prior art test.

Re:But lawyers are your friends (2)

DrQu+xum (218745) | more than 13 years ago | (#623106)

If you disapprove of gene patents, then contact your congresswoman and demand they be excised from patent law.

Not gonna work -- my congresswoman-elect's pockets were lined by pharmaceuticals & insurance companies. They have more money, so they have a louder megaphone than I do (a lowly SysAdmin at an underfunded department in a medium-sized university who does little but read & post on /. all day.)
Thus sprach DrQu+xum, SID=218745.

Re:Grrr. (1)

Peter Harris (98662) | more than 13 years ago | (#623107)

OK I really don't like this. If they patent the genes to some plant, and demand that anyone else researching its DNA pay them some kind of license fee, that's bad enough - especially if it's a staple crop.

But human DNA? Some of those patented sequences could be mine! And IMO, if I wanted to and had a few million to spend on a lab, I should be able to do any R&D on my own DNA without permission from ANYONE.

Suppose you or someone else discovers that one of your genes conveys a specific advantage. Does the patent holder then have a case to stop you selling or donating an egg or a semen sample because it infringes on their IP?

Property rights (intellectual or otherwise) are not a moral absolute. Beware those who think they can own a part of what makes you human - drop your guard and they'll have the rest, you better believe it.
--

Here is the gene I claim. (2)

Syllepsis (196919) | more than 13 years ago | (#623108)

So what happens if I or one of my offspring happen to have naturally developed a patented gene through mutation? Does it count as a "clean room" implementation, or due we still owe royalties.

BTW, better check yourselves for this:

TAGCTAGCTAGCTTTACAGCTACCGCTAGCTTAGCTGA GCTTCTGATCGATCGAAACGATCAGCTGATCGGCTAGCTTA GGCTTAGCTAGCTTAGCGAGACTAGCGATCGACTAGGCGCG CTAGCGGCTAGCTATTATTATATGCGGCCTTAATAGAGAGG AAATATCGACTGACTACTAGCTACGCGCGTACGCT

because this source code was developed by me just now, is copyright by me, and any unauthorized duplication of this code through sexual reproduction, mitosis, or other means is STRICTLY PROHIBITED.

Re:Wait wait wait... (1)

sydb (176695) | more than 13 years ago | (#623109)

>Does that mean I can patent the moon?

The moon is, unfortunately, prior art.

Re:Grrr. (1)

bukowski90210 (252368) | more than 13 years ago | (#623110)

shouldn't our genetic code be open-source?

Re:How can these Patents stand? (1)

MightyMicro (111816) | more than 13 years ago | (#623111)

Thanks for enlightening me -- that certainly makes more sense. It seems that we're subjected to a barrage of misreporting.

Still suspect, though.

Well, this cetainly explains (3)

ch-chuck (9622) | more than 13 years ago | (#623112)

the recent sharp uptick in purchases of "Patent Granted" rubber stamps in the DC area office supply stores.

Load More Comments
Slashdot Account

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
Create a Slashdot Account

Loading...