Beta
×

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!

Patents: Two For The Road (To Hell)

timothy posted more than 13 years ago | from the shoot-them-shoot-them-both dept.

News 201

The move to patent anything, everything, and all that remains after those categories are exhausted continues apace. rozzin writes: "ColorMax, who makes colour-blindness-compensatory lenses, has acquired a "patent for the human genes responsible for common, hereditary, red-green colorblindness"." Read below for a longer take on another disputed patent, which raises the all-important issue of actually determining what all those words in a patent application really mean. We can probably agree on whether something is a sphere, but what about whether something is "type data," or what constitutes the act of location? How patentable ought such things be? (I suggest browsing The League for Programming Freedom site for some cogent thoughts on this, including RMS's "The Anatomy of a Trivial Patent." Can anyone point to the best online apologia favoring software patents, or perhaps suggesting higher thresholds for them?)

Jim Lochowitz writes "A friend of mine just sent me this ( posted with permission) :

I just looked at Judge Zagel's ruling from yesterday in Eolas Technologies, Inc. v. Microsoft Corporation, 99 C 0626, which is currently pending in federal court in the Northern District of Illinois. Eolas alleges that Microsoft has infringed its patent, #5,838,906, issued November 18, 1998. If memory serves, the gist of the suit is that both Windows and Internet Explorer infringe the patent.

If you want to look at the text of the patent again, it can be found on the PTO's website [here]. (Or search for the patent #5,838,906 from [this] page.)

At this point in the case, the court is trying to resolve exactly *what* the patent covers before it can consider whether or not whatever Microsoft did infringed it. Yesterday's ruling had to do with what was meant by the following key language in the patent (found in Claim 1 and Claim 6):
"wherein said object has type information associated with it utilized by said browser to identify and locate an executable application".

As Judge Zagel put it,
"What is an executable application? What is type information that must be associated with the object? What does it mean for the type information to be utilized by said browser to identify and locate the executable application?"

Experts testified as to the answers to these questions. Eolas' expert was Edward Felten, who is an Associate Professor of Computer Science at Princeton. Microsoft's experts were H.E. Dunsmore, Associate Professor of Computer Science at Purdue University, and Michael Wallent, Product Unit Manager for Internet Explorer.

Judge Zagel found that (as used in the patent language), an "executable application" is computer program code which is launched to enable an end-user to directly interact with data, and one which is not an operating system or utility. He found that "type information" "may include the name of an application associated with the object." Finally, he found that "utilized by said browser to identify and locate" meant that those functions are performed by the browser.

Now that Judge Zagel has determined what this key language in the patent means, the court is now in a position to determine whether Microsoft has, in fact, infringed the patent. Trial could be the next step. It will be interesting to see what happens! I suspect that no matter who wins at the trial court level, there is likely to be an appeal. It will be a while yet before we learn what the resolution will be.

If you want to read the text of the opinion yourself, you can find it on CourtWeb as [this] pdf file.

Many of the rulings thus far in the case are available online. Put in "Northern District of Illinois," hit the "proceed to CourtWeb" button, and then enter the case number on the next screen. (The case # is 99cv0626.) Put in the date range you want- note that the case was filed in February 1999.

"

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

i thought this was illegal (1)

dghxc fhgxd (248363) | more than 13 years ago | (#530301)

last time i looked, you couldnt patent un-processed natural resources.... well i would think that human genes would be a natural resource

Re:Prior Art? (2)

swingkid (3585) | more than 13 years ago | (#530319)

If i have color blind kids, am i violating the DMCA?

Re:Prior Art? (1)

Yohahn (8680) | more than 13 years ago | (#530320)

I hearby offer my genes as evidence of prior art.
I'm red-green (how many colourblind readers of slashdot are there?)

Re:Patently ridiculous RTFA (3)

SEWilco (27983) | more than 13 years ago | (#530321)

Read the article. It's a company press release where they say that they patented the genes. It also says that the patent also covers a test of the genes.

So a company with one solution to the problem claims to have patent protection on the genes and one genetic test. So you can only get that test from a facility affiliated with this company with a treatment. This should raise a red flag (take my word for it, it's red).

Patenting...... (1)

F34RL3SS L34D3R (246556) | more than 13 years ago | (#530322)

Isn't Gene patenting similar to the buckyball patenting situation. Certain scientists discovered/created buckyballs and tried to patent them. They soon found out that they existed naturally and were denied the patent. Doesn't this issue similarly fall under the same category?

Believe half of what you see and none of what you hear!

Patent Sex and People (2)

jheinen (82399) | more than 13 years ago | (#530323)

So if they can patent genes, and genes are made by that other wonderful invention, people, what's to stop someone from patenting people? Or the manufacturing process - sex?

-Vercingetorix

Re:Complete misconception (1)

kwerkey (181752) | more than 13 years ago | (#530324)

But the article states directly that they patented the genes for red-green colorblindness, and it say that the patent includes rights on those tests.

I could be wrong, though.

--kwerkey

Gene patents (4)

Reality Master 101 (179095) | more than 13 years ago | (#530325)

To all of you who are giving knee-jerk "why should genes be patented?" reaction, remember why patents exist in the first place. It's to foster innovation, not to retard it. The point is to allow people to spend a lot of money developing something, without the danger of having it immediately stolen.

Think about it. Why would a drug company spend hundreds of millions of dollars, if not billions, identifying a gene for a disease, developing a cure, and then the day after they ship the drug, it's immediately mass produced by every other drug company? Hey, that'd be a great business -- simply wait for drug companies to develop cures, and then mass produce their labor.

You have to give companies the ability to recoup their expenses in developing these things, or they are simply not going to spend the money to develop them.


--

Hmm.. (1)

Washizu (220337) | more than 13 years ago | (#530340)

Do I have to pay a licensing fee to use my eyes now?

Re:Hmm.. (2)

bmongar (230600) | more than 13 years ago | (#530343)

Only if you are color blind :) /P?

Re:Prior Art? (1)

SEWilco (27983) | more than 13 years ago | (#530347)

Hello, Red Green. I like your TV show.

Re:Patently ridiculous RTFA (1)

Puk (80503) | more than 13 years ago | (#530348)

Sorry, I normally don't respond to such silly things, but that's just plain funny. Second paragraph, first sentence of the article:

ColorMax acquired a broad patent license covering the human genes for color vision from the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. The patent also covers a revolutionary test for color blindness based on a simple analysis of the actual genes that cause the problem.

Let's change the viewpoint for a minute... (2)

the_tsi (19767) | more than 13 years ago | (#530349)

Instead of thinking of it from the point of view of the leftist geeks we are, let's think about it from Big Company's point of view. (Intentionally singular possessive there)

Big Company sees all the other companies patenting stuff left and right -- like the human genome project, and what-have-you. They finish work figuring out what bits of DNA they're interested in and want to make sure they can keep working on it. If those other patents are going to hold, obviously Big Company is going to need to protect their own investment thus far -- so they fill out the paperwork with their team of lawyers and send it off to DC. The patent application gets rejected? Great. That means everyone else holds invalid patents as well and Big Company can continue to work on (or rather "not abandon the work they've done on") their color blindness project. The patent gets approved? Great: not only do we not have to stop working on the project, but we can stop everyone else from working on similar things.

It doesn't necessarily mean we had a self-serving, evil goal from the beginning, but it means that we can send our kids to college and retire without needing those social security checks.

....

Okay, we can go back to being liberals now.

-Chris
...More Powerful than Otto Preminger...

Re:Complete misconception (1)

JWW (79176) | more than 13 years ago | (#530350)

Then perhaps there press release should be more clear. It should say they have aquired the patent to a test for colorblindness, but that is not all it states.

The press release says they've received a patent for the genes themselves. The press release may be wrong, but then this companies PR group should be taken out back an flogged.

I want to patent the Heart genes (2)

Calle Ballz (238584) | more than 13 years ago | (#530351)

No one can use their Heart to pump blood - unless they pay me royalties first.
if you can't pay royalties, you'll have to find another, unpatented device to circulate your blood.

Personal impact (1)

pgarth (250582) | more than 13 years ago | (#530352)

Does this entitle everyone with Red/Green color blindness to sue for defective product?

This is a legitimate patent on testing! (2)

Dj (224) | more than 13 years ago | (#530353)

If you look at the ACTUAL color blindness tst patent on the USPTO [164.195.100.11] you will see that the patent is on testing for color blindness and deriving the exact color blindness disorder being suffered from the sequences. It also includes a pencil/paper confirmation test.

Isn't it odd that no reference to the patent was actually given in the story.

Stop griping and get a grip! This is a legitimate medical testing patent.

In Defence of Software Patents? (2)

DeadVulcan (182139) | more than 13 years ago | (#530371)

Can anyone point to the best online apologia favoring software patents, or perhaps suggesting higher thresholds for them?

I would really like to see something like this, too. Anyone?

While I agree that there have been many silly patents out there, I'm not comfortable with falling completely on one side of the issue. I believe there's probably a good case for software patents out there somewhere, and, as with most things in life, I suspect there's a happy medium.

My father is a patent agent (generally not in software, though), and it's actually a line of work that I had considered. However, I want to consolidate my own position on software patents before I make any move in that direction. To do that, I want to hear both sides of the story (until then, and maybe even after then, I continue with software development...).

I suppose Slashdot isn't the best forum to look for that side of the argument.

--

Re:Patently ridiculous (2)

Puk (80503) | more than 13 years ago | (#530372)

If anybody should receive the patent on genes, it should be God. He created them.

Of course, even if God had patented them, his patent would have long since expired. How long depends on your religion. :) -Puk

patent controls research, possible cures (2)

q000921 (235076) | more than 13 years ago | (#530373)

Note that the holder of the patent on the gene also effectively can control research on the gene, as well as many kinds of cures or treatments.

The reason for that is twofold. First, patents on genes and their products actually directly allow the patent holder to control their use in research. Second, even if there were a research exemption (which there isn't) or even if the patent holder allows research to proceed, the patent takes away much of the financial incentive for others to develop treatments using the gene if they have to fear that they can be extorted for patent licensing fees once they have developed a cure.

I think the patenting of genes is ludicrous, as is the patenting of straightforward genetic testing based on such genes, which is applying standard techniques of molecular biology to known genetic sequences. Only if a test or a cure involves some genuinely novel ideas should it be even considered for a patent, in my opinion.

Re:Complete misconception (1)

Sc00ter (99550) | more than 13 years ago | (#530374)

From the article - "ColorMax acquired a broad patent license covering the human genes for color vision from the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. The patent also covers a revolutionary test for color blindness based on a simple analysis of the actual genes that cause the problem. The new test is the first major improvement in color vision testing in the last half of a century. It is also the first totally objective color vision test that can consistently classify color vision deficiencies. As such, it offers a solution to the problem of setting uniform standards in the workplace. And, for the first time, accurate testing of preschool and kindergarten aged children will be possible."
--

Re:Gene patents (2)

JWW (79176) | more than 13 years ago | (#530375)

I would never say they shouldn't be allowed to patent their DRUG. But patenting the gene is baseless. The other way around you problem is to patent the process that identifies the gene (which this company has patented as well). But the gene itself is not theirs, its mine, and any other colorblind person's.

Re:Gene patents (1)

Aelfweld (120148) | more than 13 years ago | (#530376)

Yes but the idea is to patent the cure not the gene its based on before you have a cure(or even the possability f a cure). By patenting the gene they are preventing invoation wherin someone else may be able to reach a cure.

Re:my patent (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#530377)

Good idea, except you can't patent things that don't exist.

Re:Gene patents (1)

dstanfor (175527) | more than 13 years ago | (#530378)

That's why they patent the drug. Patent the process of the cure. Don't patent the gene that is in my body. Hell, patent a method of finding the gene. If you make a gene up on your own that doesn't have prior art (it's not in any other existing DNA) go ahead and patent that. Dave

Only Half-Evil (2)

Fatal0E (230910) | more than 13 years ago | (#530379)

First of all, RTFA.

ColorMax acquired a broad patent license covering the human genes for color vision from the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. The patent also covers a revolutionary test for color blindness based on a simple analysis of the actual genes that cause the problem. The new test is the first major improvement in color vision testing in the last half of a century. It is also the first totally objective color vision test that can consistently classify color vision deficiencies. As such, it offers a solution to the problem of setting uniform standards in the workplace. And, for the first time, accurate testing of preschool and kindergarten aged children will be possible.

Yes they did patent the genes. I don't know why but they did. Second of all, if you read that ONE paragraph they also patented a genetic test for colorblindness (which is perfectly fine IMO). I can understand a lot of you being upset over this Co patenting the discovery of which genes cause color-blindness but it's not a completly bad patent. So I think maybe they shouldn't be strung up for this patent, just have all their people in one of those stocks in the middle of a town square for about a week.

"Me Ted"

Re:Patently ridiculous RTFA (1)

ResHippie (105522) | more than 13 years ago | (#530380)

Tustin, CA (Nov 14, 2000) ColorMax Technologies, Inc. (OTC:BB) has acquired exclusive rights to the, patent for the human genes responsible for common, hereditary, red-green colorblindness.

Sounds to me like they patented the genes.

While they are handing them out... (2)

FortKnox (169099) | more than 13 years ago | (#530395)

While they are handing out patents, could I have one in all fields of math and science, please?

--

Re:Gene patents (5)

jheinen (82399) | more than 13 years ago | (#530396)

So patent the drug. I'm sorry, but the whole concept of patenting pre-existing genetic material that the company had absolutely no hand in creating is utterly and completely ridiculous. Patent the process for identifying it, patent the drugs you make as a result of it, patent the things you actually MADE. Genes are about as prior art as you can get, since they've been around for millions of years. Can you patent electricity? Gravity? How about air? If I invent a device that can identify a breathable atmosphere, does that mean I can patent the atmosphere? Can I charge license fees for everyone who uses 'my' air? Get real man.

-Vercingetorix

Re:Complete misconception (2)

squiggleslash (241428) | more than 13 years ago | (#530397)

Slashdot, of all places (well..) should know better than to continue leveraging hype off of this misconception. And from the looks of the other comments, people actually still think you CAN patent genes. You can't, anymore than I can patent a tree. Get with it.
I think some of these so-called misconceptions stems from the article that started all this, to boot:
Tustin, CA (Nov 14, 2000) ColorMax Technologies, Inc. (OTC:BB) has acquired exclusive rights to the, patent for the human genes responsible for common, hereditary, red-green colorblindness.
and
ColorMax acquired a broad patent license covering the human genes for color vision from the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. The patent also covers a revolutionary test for color blindness
Certainly ColorMax seem to believe they've patented genes, as will most people reading the article.
--

Need a True Demoronizer (2)

SEWilco (27983) | more than 13 years ago | (#530398)

Anyone else find it ironic that the press release claiming proprietary vision contains proprietary Microsoft characters [fourmilab.ch] that don't look right to some people? Apparently the company's vision is damaged.

Oh, how silly. They have a Self Test [colormaxtech.com] which behaves differently when viewed on different monitors and systems.

Re:Prior Art? (1)

einstein (10761) | more than 13 years ago | (#530399)

*meekly raises hand*

I am red-green color blind. I do not want to be patented. it's very scary to think about someone patenting part of your own genome. yikes.

I want a patent too. (1)

CaptMathtastic (265295) | more than 13 years ago | (#530400)

Does this mean I can patent the gene that causes large breasts?
Imagine the possibilities. . .
"Can you lift up your shirt, ma'am? I've got a patent on those."

You can patent genes (1)

MagikSlinger (259969) | more than 13 years ago | (#530401)

The patent office did allow patenting genes. The idea was if you've identified a gene that does a particular thing (emphasis here on figuring out what a gene does), you can protect yourself for the limited time the patent offers to make money from that discovery. That doesn't bother me, and the press release about the colour blindness genes stated the discoverers of the genes sold the rights to the company. Those two researchers spent a lot of time and money to find those genes and determine their function, so I have no problem with that.

The problem I have is when a company like Celera(sp?) makes blind patents. They just went wild and patented all the genes/base pairs they found in the human genome. It's a bit like staking a claim over an entire territory hoping someone else will figure out what's there and pay you money for it. They've done no work, and in fact, if an independent laboratory finds a crucial gene without even remotely using Celera's work, Celera can claim they own that gene! That lab does all the work and gets none of the benefits. It's a private tax. Plain and simple.

I'm another who has to disagree... (2)

MO! (13886) | more than 13 years ago | (#530402)

Sorry, but I have a huge problem with companies who patent drugs developed with tax-payer funding, then financially rape the consumers needing the medication. Combine that with the incentive to not cure a desease or illness, but focus on maintenance drugs because of the long-term financial incentive (make lotsa $$ over 20yrs vs. a few $ one-time), and you have a medical travesty.

The high cost of Health Care in the US is due, in huge part, to the costs of prescription maintenance drugs. The pharmaceutical companies are the worst abusers of the patent system for using it to leech enormous profits off the medical illnesses of our citizens.

Patent owner's responsibility. (1)

MeltyMan (262145) | more than 13 years ago | (#530403)

If a company has exclusive rights to research something that has the potential to affect us all, we should ALL be able to sue them for impeding our ability to 'pursue happiness', is that not in the Constitution? Perhaps they are not the best ones to conduct the research (for the interests of humanity) and the patent prevents anyone else from doing so, potentially hurting all of humanity. Talk about a 'class action' lawsuit!

Did anyone actually READ the press release? (1)

Medieval (41719) | more than 13 years ago | (#530404)

Jesus Christ, did anyone actually READ the fucking press release? They didn't patent anything, they licensed the patent from the Medical College of Wisconsin. Further, it appears that the biggest and most important part of their patent is a genetic test that can test for hereditary deficiencies.

As well, they misquoted the press release. Intentional or not? You decide.

Did anyone bother emailing them to ask about their technology before declaring a price on their head? Probably not. Did the editor? Hell no.

Re:Patent Sex and People (1)

shyster (245228) | more than 13 years ago | (#530405)

What I don't understand is why they just didn't up and patent ALL the genes? Why stop at color-blindness?

Maybe you just don't know you have a problem. (2)

NetWurkGuy (240604) | more than 13 years ago | (#530406)


I actually think that the pharmaceutical industry is one area where the patent system actually works. We can see this by the phenominal successses that it has seen in the last century
We do not have a controlled experiment for this. there is no patent exempt, but otherwise similar, pharmaceutical industry to compare against.

The drug wouldn't exist at all if the companies hadn't developed it. Which means that we would all be in a much worse situation, yes?
You have no way to know if the drug would not exist in the absence of patents. we can verify from history that some drugs have been discovered and marketed before patents existed.

Re:Hmm.. (2)

Misch (158807) | more than 13 years ago | (#530407)

Would those people who have genetic red-green colorblindness who are "propagating the species" be violated for patent infringment?

Discover vs. Invent (1)

oconnorcjo (242077) | more than 13 years ago | (#530421)

If something was observed/discovered/"found in nature" then it was not "invented" AND SHOULD NOT BE PATENTABLE.

"Cave man" looks up moon and gives it a name.

"Modern man" looks up at moon and patents it with patent registration number 123635343450489.

Imagine if Christopher Columbus was allowed to patent "Discovering America" or Einstien his work on splitting the atom or some stupid company could patent the human genome... oh wait: SHIT! :)

I think perhaps the answer is that patent registration cost 10,000+ dollars for company's
and have to be paid to patent office even if the patent gets rejected. For individuals citizens [with no corporate affiliation in patent] would not have to pay that much.

1) This would give the private inventor a chance against big companies
2) while detering those same big companies from making stupid patent claims
3) And give the patent office less incentive to accept any patents.

Right now I believe the patent office ONLY gets paid if they accept a patent. This just gives the PO every reason to just screw it and have everything be patented.

Time for a Free Patent Foundation (1)

Hesperus (16733) | more than 13 years ago | (#530422)

As much as I hate to suggest doing anything that might actually add to the patent frenzy, it seems like it might actually be time to create a free patent library, and patent everything immaginable.

The idea would be to collect a library of patents questionable or not on everything that Free Software enthusiasts can think of. The patents would be licenced free to Free projects, but at a royalty for Commercial project.

Of course it will cost money. IP lawyers are expensive. Specifically it would cost a lot of money to get started, however once the FPF was actually awarded a patent for anything useful perhaps royalties charged to corporate users could probably pay the bills quite nicely.

Maybe some IP lawyer could take it on speculation? I seem to recall one in Chicago that writes for a punk rock fanzine and might be approachable... More on that later...

What do you /.'ers think?

Re:I don't have much of a problem. (1)

Lover's Arrival, The (267435) | more than 13 years ago | (#530423)

Yes, but the drug wouldn't exist at all if the companies hadn't developed it. Which means that we would all be in a much worse situation, yes?

We have to make very painful decisions!

Re:Patent Sex and People (1)

Sabalon (1684) | more than 13 years ago | (#530424)

usenet...I can find all sorts of prior art on there covering sex! :)

No change needed. Just wake up the USPTO to it. (2)

Valdrax (32670) | more than 13 years ago | (#530425)

Technically, discoveries and solutions considered obvious to practicioners of the art/trade in question aren't patentable under current patent law. This should include existing genes and the brick under the tire you mentioned. It's just that the US patent office has forgotten their own rules.

Uhm, prior art screams.... (1)

Jester99 (23135) | more than 13 years ago | (#530426)

IANAL, but from what I've read there, it sounds like its "using a filename to launch a program". How is that patentable? Or did Multics, et al, do that sort of thing holistically, without actually using the filename to scan for inodes?...

Of course, prior art and obviousness seem to mean nothing in the computer world these days.

On a somewhat related track: People on slashdot mentioned recently that journals/repositories/etc should be set up to collect "prior art" for every obvious damn thing we can thing of. I would find it only mildly ironic if this actually would get Microsoft out of a bind. :)

Re:Patent Sex and People (2)

einstein (10761) | more than 13 years ago | (#530427)

I'm going to patent the Y chromosome. Anyone posessing or using any derivative works, such as the penis, will be charged a licensing fee. unfortunately, it appears others in a competing industry have stolen my Penis Technology (tm) and created cheap knock off devices being marketed under the name Dildo, as witnessed in this commercial [ifilm.com] . If you are using a penis without proper licensing, you will be hearing from my lawyer.

I think people might be misinterpreting this (2)

Calle Ballz (238584) | more than 13 years ago | (#530428)

This might be reduntant, I don't know, but it seems to me that this company patented the "rights to further research" on the genes that cause color blindness. Basically if you are a scientist and want to cure color blindness, youb will have to pay this company royalties. I still think that is f*****d up only because genes have existed in nature for millions of years, no one can "own" them or "own" rights to research them. But because this has happened, now it is proved that anyone can patent any part of the human genome.

Re:I don't have much of a problem. (1)

GungaDan (195739) | more than 13 years ago | (#530429)

"the pharmaceutical industry is one area where the patent system actually works"

A clever disguise, Senator Hatch, but we all still remember your anonymous posts about the benefits of extending the Claritin patent...

Re:Patent Sex and People (1)

nharmon (97591) | more than 13 years ago | (#530430)

Not as far fetched as you may think. If Billy Blanks can patent something as stupid as Tae Bo, and then utterly squeeze more money than it's worth out of the people who buy it, then what would stop some porn guy from patenting a new "position"?

Of course, a lot of the standard stuff would fall under prior art... but how many times have people gotten around prior art by adding something stupid?

Re:I don't have much of a problem. (2)

umask077 (122989) | more than 13 years ago | (#530431)

Sorry, what the US patent office does is hamper progress. Medical companys are the worst. Take HIV. In order to develop a cure they must try a large number of drugs combinations. Which they do. If they find one that looks promising they patent it. Well, If there off by a little and cant make it work others are worried about trying similiar drugs becaues of the patent. Futhur they dont share information about the failures with the community either making it so other companys have to attempt the same combinations. Basicly profit before human life. Annoying as hell. Personally I dont think any concept at all should be patentable. Finished product yes but concepts no.

The eye patent? They didnt make the gene. They should be entitled to the patent. They didnt invent it. There are lots of theorys about where we came from but none of those gods have filed a patent and if they did im sure they wouldnt want to deal with the US patent office.

Why are genes patentable anyway? (2)

Monty Worm (7264) | more than 13 years ago | (#530432)

One thing I'm beginning to wonder, is how can the human genome possibly be patentable ?

You should be able to patent gene-therapies for genetic conditions (ie here's a drug that will fix your genetic red-green colour blindness) but surely not the genes themselves

Even if there is a God, and the earth was created, then there's 6000 years of prior art. My belief (atheism) says different, but then there is even more.

I thought patents had to be simple, elegant, and non-obvious. Genes have two (simple and elegant) but non-obvious is not one of them. If you can sequence genes, and sample large populations intelligently, you can find out what pretty much any gene does. This, to me at least, is obvious (even though the technology for sequencing is something outside my personal expertise, I know people who can do this).

Mind you: genes aren't going to obsolete in a hurry. And patents only have a limited lifespan.

"patent" (1)

gregoryl (187330) | more than 13 years ago | (#530433)

patent: 1. A grant made by a government that confers upon the creator of an invention the sole right to make, use, and sell that invention for a set period of time. ( http://www.dictionary.com/cgi-bin/dict.pl?term=pat ent ) Wouldn't that then be God or nature (depending on your theology)? So does mean that if you have a child that is colour-blind, that they can sue you for infringement?

It's time to patent a "patent" (2)

nologin (256407) | more than 13 years ago | (#530434)

Geez. Considering how stupid some of the patents that get granted, I might as well submit a patent application for a "patent". Who knows, maybe the drones at the USPTO might self destruct while trying to figure out this recusive loop.

Re:You can patent genes (2)

bwalling (195998) | more than 13 years ago | (#530435)

Why do you need a damn patent for it? Just don't tell anyone which one it is. If I find it on my own, you can't keep me from using it.

Re:Prior Art? (1)

The Scooter King (166383) | more than 13 years ago | (#530436)

I think the appropriate person to claim prior art would be my mother. Wait till she tells all of her friends at bridge that she's a big time inventor!

Re:Gene patents (1)

GungaDan (195739) | more than 13 years ago | (#530437)

You grant patent protection on inventions (in your scenario, the cure that is developed). You DO NOT grant patent protection on a piece of genetic code for the sole purpose of PREVENTING OTHERS working in the same area from making the discovery you're trying to make first. It used to be called competition - if you're real good at gene-cowboying, and you invent the "cure" first, then you get patent protection on the cure. These are not mining rights, people, and they should not be distributed, like mining rights, to the first grizzled genetecist who drives a stake in the ground. Let them DO something, then reward them. Don't give them broad patents to lurk under R&D bridges, demanding tolls of innocent, or at least less vile and malicious, passersby.

Gimme your wallet (3)

Vassily Overveight (211619) | more than 13 years ago | (#530438)

"ColorMax, who makes colour-blindness-compensatory lenses, has acquired a "patent for the human genes responsible for common, hereditary, red-green colorblindness".

Can I sue these guys for my condition? Do they realize what misery is being created by their 'invention'? Drawing on the 'Racism at Microsoft' example, I think 5 billion (each) might cover it.

Where's my lawyer? (2)

ocelotbob (173602) | more than 13 years ago | (#530439)

I'm going to get rid of this stupid colorblindness DNA patent, I have prior art. Since they are claiming that they in essence own the genes, the existance of my genes prior to their patent should be enough, if their patent is as vague as their press release. Of course, I don't have VC funding/ravenous lawyers, so they'll probably just sue me and make me give them my eyes to remedy my "infringement".

I am beginning to hate patents with a vengance.

Prior Art? (3)

jheinen (82399) | more than 13 years ago | (#530440)

It would seem that anyone who is color-blind, and was born before this patent was filed, could claim prior art, no?

-Vercingetorix

You think that's bad... Read this one! (2)

LtFiend (232003) | more than 13 years ago | (#530441)

http://www.theonion.com/onion3311/microsoftpatents .html

Uh (1)

anotherone (132088) | more than 13 years ago | (#530442)

Shouldn't they have to license that from GOD?
-------

Patently ridiculous (3)

Flounder (42112) | more than 13 years ago | (#530445)

Why are genes patentable? It's not like the company invented them, they just identified them. Should medival doctors receive the patents on the human internal organs? How about researchers that discover what parts of the brain do what functions, should that be patentable.

Maybe the US Patent Office should take the year off and go back into the real world. Maybe they'll find their common sense they lost so many years ago. Of course, you can say that about anybody in government service (especially congressmen).

If anybody should receive the patent on genes, it should be God. He created them.

Ishihara test: "If u can read this u go to jail." (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#530446)

Wow, a simple hidden text message amid some coloured circles can now be used to send people to jail for patent infringements!

Should we have another "Stupid Patents" contest? (2)

AFCArchvile (221494) | more than 13 years ago | (#530449)

Seriously, I think that another one is long overdue. This time, include the requirement that the patent must exist in the U.S. Patent Offices (or any other country's patent office).

IMHO, the human genome should not be patentable, nor should any individual gene or group of genes. If current genetic patents continue, then we might only be 20 years away from an X-Men scenario.

Change the laws (2)

scott1853 (194884) | more than 13 years ago | (#530451)

Here's a suggestion. Make patents available only for unique ideas that don't fall under the category of evolution (human or commercial) and aren't obvious solutions. Putting a brick under the tire of a car to keep it from rolling down the hill should not be patentable, even if you design a special block to fit the need.

Human genes should not be considered patents. Why should the companies researching those genes get any protection? Can I get a patent on the AIDS virus, leaving only me to do research on it, making me the only one to profit from a cure?

This is synonymous with calling shotgun for a ride in your friends new car. And doesn't the reservation of genes eliminate any possible competition? Everybody is just getting a little too greedy. Actually genes should just be licensed under GPL.

Re:What are we trying to accomplish here? (1)

LtFiend (232003) | more than 13 years ago | (#530456)

I can guarantee that not one reader has passed these links on to others outside slashdot.

WHAT BULLSHIT! I for one tell at least 5 people everyday to look at NUMEROUS articles on slashdot. My number one conversation mover is to talk about the stories that are slashdot. I spread the word of all these, YRO, Patent, Space(gotta love nasa) to as many people that will listen. I have even printed out some of these articles and mailed them to users without computers! Who the hell are you to guarantee something about another person. That makes you no better then the patenters themselves.

But I do agree with you in one area. WE NEED TO DO MORE. Slashdot has become a bunch of Cause-eds (PCU) one day we're bitching and moaning about something (ie: the comments made from Sony's VP that had 90% of /. promising to boycott Sony) and the next day everyone has moved on to some other subject and forgets about the prior or does a whole 180 and starts pumping up a product (PSX2) without any mention of the previous posts.. C'mon slashdot. Lets shape up and start being more pro-active!

Re:Gene patents (2)

MrGrendel (119863) | more than 13 years ago | (#530457)

The question as to why patents on genes should be allowed is not a knee-jerk reaction -- it's critical thinking. Remember, patents are not allowed on scientific discoveries. Only inventions can be patented. So the real question here is 'Why should we make an exception for the discovery of genes?' None of these companies invented the genes.

These patents would be OK if they were patents on specific treatments or tests that happened to use those genes, but they aren't. They cover anything and everything one could possibly want to do with those genes. What if I wanted to use those genes to develop a way to give people four color receptors instead of the standard three? This isn't treatment for any existing disorder and is completely independent of anything that company might be doing with those genes, but it is still not allowed. That impedes innovation and is contrary to the purpose of the patent system.

perhaps this scenario? (1)

aszurom (248421) | more than 13 years ago | (#530458)

Not to say that such is the case here, but to just shoot a broad generality at you... A lot of pharmaceutical companies are patenting various genetic items. These are useful in finding a cure for whatever condition... however, a pharmaceutical company would cut their own throat if they actually CURE anything. Why not patent the researchable material to discourage others from trying to cure what you profit from treating the symptoms of? Obviously this doesn't so much apply to color blindedness. Hrm... maybe cancer though? How much Listerine would we sell if they cured gingivitis and halitosis? Yep, they're outta business.

Re:Prior Art? (1)

MeltyMan (262145) | more than 13 years ago | (#530459)

Not (Score:3, Funny); (Score:3, RIGHT!!!!) :)

Re:Prior Art? (1)

rossz (67331) | more than 13 years ago | (#530460)

I was thinking just that when I first read the article. Since I am red-green Colour Deficient (not Colour Blind, please!), I am proof of prior art.

Link To Pertinent Site: bustpatents.com (2)

goingware (85213) | more than 13 years ago | (#530461)

No slashdot discussion like this is complete without a link to the Internet Patent News Service, run by Greg Aharonian at:

You think Aharonian's a hero? You don't know the half of it - he's being sued by an intellectual property holding company [techsearch-llc.com] for patent infringement. The basis of their suit include such claims as the accusation that Aharonian

shamelessly, and oftentimes profanely, attack[ing] the United States Government, specifically the Patent and Trademark Office
Read about it in Patent Fight Pending [sfweekly.com] .


Michael D. Crawford
GoingWare Inc

In Defence of Software Patents (3)

bluGill (862) | more than 13 years ago | (#530462)

sure I'll defendt them. Not all software patents are defensable however.

Although it causes us pain, LZW and RSA are both defenseable patents. They are useful, and they were discovered. Someone went through effort to discover those algorythms, and that should be rewarded. Copyright works, but copyright protects a specific implimentation. Patents are broader but don't last as long.

An arguement can (should) be made that because comptuers are new we should not yet allow patents because there are so many easy and obvious algoryithms that have not been found yet. Patents should reward significant effort to create something invative, not something that wasn't needed before but is now. Before the invention of gears (Or maybe it was something else but lets use gears) there was no need for patents because there was so little that could be done. Once we had gears there were many obvious things to build. AFter a few years someone working for years on end devolps something complex, only to have someone else copy it. The first person did all the work, he is the one who should be rewarded for the work, not any latter person who is smart enough to make a copy but not create to begin with. Once the point is reached that complex algorithms are all that we patent, then we need that protection, until then we don't.

Unfortunatly the patent system doesn't differentiate important. If the machine above also contained the discovery of oval gears, that would be worth more protection then the machine, because the gears are useful in many more ways. (Oval gears have existed for years, they are difficult to get right, but they do have advantages in some situations.

Asking why. (1)

NetWurkGuy (240604) | more than 13 years ago | (#530463)

It is my conjecture that the US patent office, and every other national patent office, will pretend that obvious is nonobvious and old is new out of fear that if they don't grant an unworthy patent first somebody in another country will get an international patent on the same absurdly obvious non-novel idea. If anybody, therefore, is going to collect undeserved royalties better us than them.

Does anyone have a better explanation?

I can show prior use! (1)

macdaddy (38372) | more than 13 years ago | (#530464)

I have a 108 year-old Grandmother that can show prior use of the colorblindness genes! I bet the people at ColorMax can't top that (although they may be able to acquire the patent on blindness from excessive and compulsive masturbation).

--

Apologia for software patents (1)

Alomex (148003) | more than 13 years ago | (#530465)

Can anyone point to the best online apologia favoring software patents, or perhaps suggesting higher thresholds for them?)

Many moons ago I collected what I thought were particularly cogent articles both in favour or against software patents. Here are the two best ones in favour of software patents:

The color-blindness patent (3)

Platinum Dragon (34829) | more than 13 years ago | (#530466)

1) Colormax did not acquire the patent. They "exclusively licensed" the patent from the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee.

2) According to the press release, the patent involved covers both "the human genes responsible for common, hereditary, red-green colorblindnes," and "a revolutionary test for color blindness based on a simple analysis of the actual genes that cause the problem."

So it's still a dumb patent, but be sure to include institutions of higher learning within range of your flamethrowers for stupid shit like this. I can see patenting the test...but the genes? Hell, probably 1/4 of our species is prior art. It's not as if they artificially created the gene (like in some biotech industry patents); they just found it.

I'm sure if Newton discovered gravity today, he'd just be a doctor at Cambridge, and the school would immediately patent it. What a fscked-up world this is.

They patented the use of MIME in 1998?!?!? (2)

Saint Nobody (21391) | more than 13 years ago | (#530467)

Is it just me, or is that second patent basically a patent on using MIME typing?

The patent is for "Distributed hypermedia method for automatically invoking external application providing interaction and display of embedded objects within a hypermedia document" Translated from patent-ese to english, this means using a MIME type (i.e. text/html) to determine what application can interpret the data. Netscape was doing this long before 1998.

Of course, the generality of the patent makes it just "type data" instead of "MIME type" So it would also include extensions, and how long has Windows been associating extensions with programs? Since version 3 as i recall. This just adds a network to the equation. So the file is downloaded instead of being created on the local machine, is that really enough of a difference that it can be patentable? I think not.

Re:I don't have much of a problem. (1)

4of12 (97621) | more than 13 years ago | (#530468)

[I've said this before when the US patent system has been the topic of a posting.]



The length of time for patent protection of inventions should be shortened from 17 years to 17 months.

On 2nd thought, with the ridiculousness factor increasing so fast, perhaps the time protection should be shortened to 17 seconds.

I can't belive anyone would apply for this patent (1)

Grey (14278) | more than 13 years ago | (#530469)

wherein said object has type information associated with it utilized by said browser to identify and locate an executable application.

According to the patent they applyed for this in 1994. lets see this is just 10 years after the mac and 8 after windows which both do just this, not to mention MIME which also can do this.

As far as I can tell the major "inovation" is that they do this in hypertext but I think that goopher did this too. There is some much ovious prior art here its not funny. I don't now is hypercard could lanch other applications does anyone remember?

WTF? (1)

binner (68996) | more than 13 years ago | (#530470)

The suit that MS is involved in seems really stupid to me. Doesn't this patent basically describe MIME types?

-Ben

Re:Gene patents (1)

dachshund (300733) | more than 13 years ago | (#530471)

Please don't forget that the price of genetic sequencing is plummeting. In a few years (less than half the life of this patent, I'll bet), we'll be able to complete this sort of work for a tiny fraction of the millions of dollars this company spent. Now, I believe it's important that they recoup their investment, and that's why they should have a patent for the testing process. But what real benefit will we see from allowing gene patents? If this sort of patent is upheld, we (society) will wind up paying this company billions of dollars for performing what is essentially a few thousand dollars worth of genetic sequencing.

Re:No change needed. Just wake up the USPTO to it. (2)

SurfsUp (11523) | more than 13 years ago | (#530472)

Technically, discoveries and solutions considered obvious to practicioners of the art/trade in question aren't patentable under current patent law. This should include existing genes and the brick under the tire you mentioned. It's just that the US patent office has forgotten their own rules.

No they haven't. They are lawyers and they are playing this game for themselves. They are trying to change the rules.
--

Re:Prior Art? (4)

WillWare (11935) | more than 13 years ago | (#530473)

While we're patenting pre-existing things that weren't invented by human beings...

What is claimed is:

1. A method for reproduction and elimination of fluid waste comprising: a cylindrical biological appendage enclosing a plurality of fluid-bearing tubes; said tubes bearing said fluids from the interior of a male human body to its exterior; said fluids comprising two unrelated functionalities, the first being the removal of excess water and water-soluble biological waste products from said male human body, the second being to provide a medium of suspension for the transportation of male genetic material for purposes of propogation of the human species, as well as general recreation; associated means to ensure rigidity of the appendage required during conduct of the reproductive act; generous endowment of the appendage's outer surface with nerve endings to provide a pleasuarable experience during the reproductive act, thereby encouraging the user's propogation of the human species; coordination with hands and eyes to direct the flow of said waste fluid during the process of liquid waste elimination toward a suitable and designated receptacle for same.

2. The method of claim 1, wherein said appendage is longer than average.

3. The method of claim 1, wherein said appendage is shorter than average.

4. The method of claim 1, wherein said appendage is wider than average.

5. The method of claim 1, wherein said appendage is narrower than average.

All persons finding themselves in possession of an appendage as described above, however they may have acquired said appendage in the past, are henceforth determined to be infringing this patent. This condition can easily be corrected by the payment of licensing fees amounting to one U. S. dollar per day of said possession. I am authorized to collect said payment on behalf of the patent holder.

Re:Where's my lawyer? (1)

Coz (178857) | more than 13 years ago | (#530474)

Ummm.. sir? Since your genetic material is found in every cell of your body, plus all the cells your body has shed throughout your lifetime, your eyes won't be enough to protect our Intellectual Property(tm). I'm afraid we're going to have to impound all of the cells currently in your possesion that contain the material in question, to keep you from pirating our valuable Intellectual Property(tm). Those children of yours? We have to impound them, too... just until the tests confirm they're not in possession of our Intellectual Property(tm).

Would you mind standing still while we shrink-wrap your entire body, then dip it in this durable poly sealant? Thanks...

Complete misconception (2)

HEbGb (6544) | more than 13 years ago | (#530475)

Repeat after me people:

GENES ARE NOT PATENTABLE

No one has ever patented a gene, but people have, like in this case, patented various tests and processes that are BASED on genes. These are completely different, the this misconception, while it does stir up attention, leads to people being completely misinformed about this issue.

Slashdot, of all places (well..) should know better than to continue leveraging hype off of this misconception. And from the looks of the other comments, people actually still think you CAN patent genes. You can't, anymore than I can patent a tree. Get with it.

wow.txt (1)

crushinator (212593) | more than 13 years ago | (#530476)

Does this mean that by simply naming a file "something.mp3", I am associating "type" information (it's an mp3) with the file? And then, if a browser inspects that extension and launches an mp3 player, that browser has infringed on the patent?

If so, get me some shares in that company. Yee haw!

Come to think of it, a few months ago, I used my browser to download and play DeCSS_source_read_aloud.mp3 . In doing so, it turns out I have violated not only the above-mentioned patent, but also the DMCA *and* the hotly debated Fraunhofer mp3 patent! A 3-in-one! Somebody better lock me up.

Colormax lenses for trichromats (1)

Lupus Rufus (11262) | more than 13 years ago | (#530477)

So I was looking at Colormax's website, and apparently they have "proprietary technology" which will "enhance color discrimination" in color-blind people. My question is, could this technology be modified so as to provide someone like me (non-colorblind) with tetrachromatic vision, or even pentachromatic vision? I can see it now: "Geordi La forge glasses sold here!" I'd buy it.

Can I patent chromosones now? (1)

Mechagodzilla (94503) | more than 13 years ago | (#530478)

If I patent X and Y chromosones, then I can charge licensing fees to all babies born after the patent takes effect, right? This has got to be the stupidest thing I have ever seen. Being spectrally-challenged (A PC term I heard for color blind), I am insulted. That means that this sham of a company is the only ones that will ever be helping this condition. My confidence is underwhelming.

Just maybe.... (2)

barryblack (31922) | more than 13 years ago | (#530479)

I could patent color, and then charge them a licensing fee.
--------------------------------------

Color Max to sue for patent infringement? (1)

Fujisawa Sensei (207127) | more than 13 years ago | (#530480)

Does this mean that everybody with Red-Green color blindness will have to pay ColorMax for the use of the genes?

Re:Hmm.. (2)

JWW (79176) | more than 13 years ago | (#530481)

Damn. I guess I'm stuck then.

Actaully this really pisses me off. Go ahead, patent you testing methods, patent you (really cool - if they work - corrective lenses). But who the hell do they think they are patenting MY genes.

I got your prior art right here!!!

Actally shouldn't God/Nature hold the patent on colorblind genes?

Prior art (1)

-ryan (115102) | more than 13 years ago | (#530482)

"patent for the human genes responsible for common, hereditary, red-green colorblindness"

Umm, I've found prior art. I work with a color blind guy.

Re:I don't have much of a problem. (2)

SubtleNuance (184325) | more than 13 years ago | (#530486)

pharmaceutical industry is one area where the patent system actually works. We can see this by the phenomenal successes that it has seen in the last century, the majority of them on the drugs fron done by private companies

Your basic premise is that companies are actually responsible for these inventions - which is false. PEOPLE are really responsible for these inventions. In the entire history of man it was not until the last 150 years that this privately owned corporate monster was born. In the past these inventions occurred from the works of scholars and engineers - by people practicing their craft. It has only been recently that NO ONE can sustain themselves without being involved in a 'corporate' world. The ability for people to grow, live, work, love, laugh and all else is being subverted by the needs of 'corporations'.

Do you really think that without these corporate entities to take more than their share and exploit people's work for profit to be collected by the few we would have had less progress? If people were given more reward from their community (i dont mean simply more $$$$$$$) you'd find that people would work just fine towards these goals - and they would have an incentive to achieve them.

What you are failing to see is the basic, fundamental problem with our corporate-centric culture... there is ample evidence it DOES NOT WORK.. we need to fix the problems before the only answer is revolution...

Re:Patently ridiculous RTFA (1)

HEbGb (6544) | more than 13 years ago | (#530496)

Did you Read The (F'n) Article??

The genes weren't patented. The test process was. The PTO has problems, yes, but allowing the patenting of genes is not one of them.

I don't have much of a problem. (2)

Lover's Arrival, The (267435) | more than 13 years ago | (#530497)

See, the thing that people forget about patents is that they only last for a finite length of time. It seems perfectly good to me that research in this field be spurred by private companies, and that then the benefits filter down to us in twenty years time for the common good.

I know that people get annoyed that they can patent things that already exist and that we all carry around with us, but I actually think that the pharmaceutical industry is one area where the patent system actually works. We can see this by the phenominal successses that it has seen in the last century, the majority of them on the drugs fron done by private companies. The fact that after a time, the knowledge becomes publically available softens the blow and makes up for the rather strange nature of these patents, at least for me.

Thanks for reading!

You know, we really blew it (1)

John Jorsett (171560) | more than 13 years ago | (#530498)

I just came to the realization that this absurd 'if it moves, patent it' stuff could be a force for good as well as evil. What we should have done is patent every idiotic copy-protection concept being floated (as per this SlashDot story [slashdot.org] ) just to tie them up and make sure they're never used. Unfortunately, it looks like we're too late. Alas.

Obviously we should patent patents (2)

Bookwyrm (3535) | more than 13 years ago | (#530499)

With all the patenting of such basic processes and ideas, perhaps someone should patent the process of rendering an idea or concept into a document suitable for submission to a patent office. Perhaps patent the business model/process for making money by acting as a patent lawyer who prepares patent documents.

Has anyone patented the business model of filing patents on software and/or business concepts and then going around getting licensing fees for such patents without actually producing anything of use otherwise? That sounds like a distinct, just-as-patentable business concept as some of these others out there. Or perhaps patent the business model of controlling information distribution through patenting decoding technology to prevent third parties from making their own decodes...

Patent apologia (1)

gwjc (181552) | more than 13 years ago | (#530500)

Well not really but it does ride the fence. http://www.heckel.org/Heckel/ACM%20Paper/acmpaper. htm#Confront

Re:Patently ridiculous RTFA (1)

JWW (79176) | more than 13 years ago | (#530501)

I read the article and it states they patented both the genes AND the test to find them.

The patent office is utterly worthless unless it stops this crap.
Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?