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SCOTUS To Hear Patentable Thought Case

Zonk posted more than 8 years ago | from the get-out-of-my-head dept.

394

skayell writes "The Supreme Court of the United States will hear a landmark patent case involving whether or not thoughts and relationships are patentable. Michael Crichton's essay in the New York Times attempts a thoughtful summary of Metabolite's primary assertion: they not only own the connection between homocysteine levels in the blood and vitamin B12 deficiency, but also any thought connecting the two."

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crap (5, Funny)

Janek Kozicki (722688) | more than 8 years ago | (#14952756)

this is the first time I used a tag crap, you can follow if you wish :)

only for subscribers (1)

quokkapox (847798) | more than 8 years ago | (#14952824)

since you're not a subscriber, your tagging has no effect.

Re:only for subscribers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14952864)

some people don't always use their subscriber bonus...

Re:only for subscribers (1)

fbjon (692006) | more than 8 years ago | (#14953016)

Actually, it's "open to subscribers and some users"...

..whatever that means. I can at least input tags and submit them, does that mean I'm a golden chosen one?

Everything should be patented (5, Interesting)

Nick Gisburne (681796) | more than 8 years ago | (#14952757)

Let's just have patents on EVERYTHING, every gene, every molecule, every action you could ever think of. Then in 17 years (or whatever the time limit is) when they expire, we can forget all this patent bullshit and just get on with life again. I'd be willing to wait those 17 years if the patent system would just expire.

Re:Everything should be patented (4, Insightful)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 8 years ago | (#14952795)

1. 17 years is a minimum, not a maximum for medical patents. You can get extensions for a variety of reasons & the big pharma companies often do.

2. If you let the bastards lock up everything for the next 17 years, the Chinese are going to put the U.S. of A. so far behind that it'll require a insane amounts of spending to catch up.

3. The public might need some of the innovations those ideas may generate between now and the year 2023.

Re:Everything should be patented (1)

the_humeister (922869) | more than 8 years ago | (#14952900)

I'm so fucking sick of these stupid patents that I think the grandparent and the parent posts are right. We should patent everything and let other countries who don't have such stupid laws out-do us in the technology field. We reap what we sow, and maybe if/when China does get ahead, that will be the impetus for the USA to change these stupid laws.

Doubt it... (0)

schon (31600) | more than 8 years ago | (#14952946)

if/when China does get ahead, that will be the impetus for the USA to change these stupid laws

No, what will happen:

Lobbyists for big business will tell Congress that the reason that the country is getting smacked is all of the horrible labour laws and union restrictions.

The government will then eliminate minimum wage (and whatever else they can) and draft laws restricting what unions can bargain for.

THOUGHTCRIME (0)

Philip K Dickhead (906971) | more than 8 years ago | (#14953025)

Let's grease that slippery slope, O.K.?

It seems to me that one way of approaching the real dominant economic mode of our time is not, properly, Capitalism - but Propertarianism.
  • All value is derived from private and exclusive ownership as property.
  • Who privately owns what?
  • That which cannot be privately owned must be sold off to a private owner or outlawed.

Of course in extremis, this outlaws thoughts that infringe on the absolute measure of property. You can also be a violator for having thoughts you do not own, and have not paid for the privilege of having.
What a narrow ond short-sighted way to manage in the world.

Re:Everything should be patented (1)

aichpvee (631243) | more than 8 years ago | (#14953063)

2. If you let the bastards lock up everything for the next 17 years, the Chinese are going to put the U.S. of A. so far behind that it'll require a insane amounts of spending to catch up.

But oh noes, we won't be able to spend because just then the Chinese will decide that they've had enough of lending us money and we'll be sunk. It was fun being a super power while it lasted though, right?

Re:Everything should be patented (2, Interesting)

zilym (3470) | more than 8 years ago | (#14952846)

You jest, but this just might work... The people wouldn't even need to wait the full 20 years for the patent system to meltdown:

Patents expire 20 years after the initial filing date of a patent application. If everyone were to DDoS the patent office with junk patent applications on every little thing imaginable in the world, we could bog down the patent office so much that it would take decades to get a patent reviewed and granted. If it takes 15 years to get a patent reviewed, the patent owner only gets a scant 5 years to enforce their patent against people ("infrigement" before the grant date doesn't count, and anything after the expiration date doesn't count either).

If the enforcement time period is short enough, then the owners will eventually figure out that patents are completely useless.

Re:Everything should be patented (2, Informative)

tepples (727027) | more than 8 years ago | (#14952947)

If it takes 15 years to get a patent reviewed, the patent owner only gets a scant 5 years to enforce their patent against people

There is already a term extension for patents whose approval was unjustly delayed. See Title 35, United States Code, section 156 and the surrounding sections. If the Patent Office gets too bogged down, then Congress could broaden this extension or, as a last-ditch effort, just reinstate the rule for patents that were subsisting as of 1997: the greater of filing + 20 or grant + 17.

Re:Everything should be patented (1)

Alef (605149) | more than 8 years ago | (#14953030)

Perhaps we should create a program that enumerates every thought, and formats them as patent applications, and files.

Of course, the patent authorities would counter by raising fees the for filing an application enough to either choke the DDoS or fund salaries for more patent office clerks.

Wouldn't work (5, Insightful)

NigelJohnstone (242811) | more than 8 years ago | (#14952851)

Sony just lost another court case relating to the vibration feedback on the dual shock joysitck.
(The claim is that the eccentric wheel is attached directly to the stick not the case and that this is novel because it gives feedback directly to the stick).

I found a patent that match exactly the same feature, same linkages, same thing, an eccentric shake feeback mechanism on a joystick on an aircraft simulator from Fokker in 1980's. Yet Sony just lost another case, even though its the same thing only smaller.

The court assume the patent office has done its job.

As long as the patent office doesn't enforce novelty and non-obviousness, the same patents will keep coming up again and again and again and the courts will enforce each new one.

Re: Everything should be patented (1)

toggles (560010) | more than 8 years ago | (#14952865)

Why not just patent the act of applying for a patent? then you could sue anyone who applies for a patent into oblivion.

Re: Everything should be patented (1)

aquabat (724032) | more than 8 years ago | (#14953099)

In this case, the supreme court has the opportunity to make it possible for you to patent your idea of patenting the act of applying for a patent.

In fact, now that I've thought about it, I could patent the idea of patenting the idea of patenting the act of applying for a patent.

Re:Everything should be patented (1)

Surt (22457) | more than 8 years ago | (#14952871)

Unfortunately, that would require at least an aleph-0 of patents. And given how slow and overwhelmed the patent office is, no doubt an aleph-3 to process them all.

Re:Everything should be patented (5, Funny)

Kadin2048 (468275) | more than 8 years ago | (#14952880)

That'll work well, until the injunction on infringing on my patent for "An Apparatus and Process for Extracting Oxygen from a Low-Density Fluid Using Positive and Negative Pressure Differentials" comes into effect.

Seventeen years is a long time.

Marketplace of Ideas (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 8 years ago | (#14952763)

Here's a chance for the Court to clear away some of the brush accumulated by the PTO bureacracy that threatens to engulf all intellectual activity, property generation and otherwise, in flames. Who wants to bet whether the latest two of the nine appointed justices will protect thinkers' freedom and the market's choices, or monopolies on ideas and inventions?

Re:Marketplace of Ideas (1)

spun (1352) | more than 8 years ago | (#14952838)

I think we know how the people in power would like them to rule. Those in power are doing everything they can to destroy democracy and the free market and install a fundamentalist oligarchy in their place. However, you never know with supreme court justices. They are appointed for life after all, so theoretically they are free to rule based on their conscience. Hopefully they weren't appointed simply because someone has some really nasty dirt on them that can be used to ensure their cooperation.

I hope this gets smacked down hard (1)

springbox (853816) | more than 8 years ago | (#14952765)

Otherwise, you all are infringing on an undisclosed thought that I am having

Re:I hope this gets smacked down hard (1)

Phroggy (441) | more than 8 years ago | (#14952858)

Otherwise, you all are infringing on an undisclosed thought that I am having

Well, at least patents do have to be disclosed. Apparently you no longer have to disclose how it works, but you do have to disclose what it does, in terms that are vague enough not to let your competitors know what you're up to but specific enough not to apply to obvious prior art.

Patents are supposed to be a trade-off: you tell us how it works, and we won't let anyone else make it for awhile.

Re:I hope this gets smacked down hard (1)

VJ42 (860241) | more than 8 years ago | (#14952975)

On the other hand, if it's held up, you can patent the idea of patenting somthing. That'd screw the system up. Thankfully, living here in the UK, we don't (yet) allow patents of this kind, infact according to the patent office website [patent.gov.uk] it's specifically excluded:

"An invention is not patentable if it is:
  • a discovery;
  • a scientific theory or mathematical method;
  • an aesthetic creation such as a literary, dramatic or artistic work;
  • a scheme or method for performing a mental act, playing a game or doing business;
  • the presentation of information, or a computer program."

Good point (1)

LeonGeeste (917243) | more than 8 years ago | (#14952979)

The things you can patent is getting larger and larger, and of course, when you sue, you can't reveal too much about how they infringe until trial. I predict that one day, they will patent "innovative problem solving", so if you move a box to stand on it and get over a wall, that's covered. I mean, why not? Offering immediate tender prices ("buy it now" prices) is patentable? Thousands of books consider reducing storage time, but like, only when it helps [wikipedia.org] to be a novel idea. How long until they consider some ill-defined "problem-solving method" patentable?

Re:I hope this gets smacked down hard (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14952998)

You're thinking of porn aren't you?

The Fall of American Civilization (3, Insightful)

Alien54 (180860) | more than 8 years ago | (#14952773)

will happen because of the absurdities growing in both Patent and Copyright Law. This is what it feels like to be a test monkey in a laboratory, folks.

Re:The Fall of American Civilization (1)

mOOzilla (962027) | more than 8 years ago | (#14953151)

Its called "Europe" but I just wish the stinky USA/US/Aus rogue nations would keep theyre fingers out of it.

are you thinking what i'm thinking? (5, Funny)

dirtyhippie (259852) | more than 8 years ago | (#14952775)

Guy 1: "Are you thinking what I'm thinking?"

Guy 2: "Yes!"

Guy 1: "I'll see you in court, asshole."

Mod parent, please (0, Redundant)

Raul654 (453029) | more than 8 years ago | (#14952784)

Damn! I'm out of mod points. Someone please mod parent up.

Re:Mod parent, please (1)

Ecko7889 (882690) | more than 8 years ago | (#14953111)

mod parent up++

Re:are you thinking what i'm thinking? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14952839)

You have misspelled Gay in your example...

Re:are you thinking what i'm thinking? (1)

SirClicksalot (962033) | more than 8 years ago | (#14952909)

Guy 1: "Are you thinking what I'm thinking?"


I think so, Brain, but where are we going to find a duck and a hose at this hour?

Another step on the road (3, Funny)

say (191220) | more than 8 years ago | (#14952778)

We don't need no education
('cause) Metabolite does thought control
Science, progress - all is futile
People, leave the firms alone!
People! Leave the firms alone!
All in all you're just another brick in the wall.

Congress? (1)

ikejam (821818) | more than 8 years ago | (#14952779)

somehow I doubt that the issue will be resolved before Congressional Balls are savaged from the lobby brigade's garbage bins.

This is a question of broken laws and exploitation of outdated models. Not intepretation.

Re:Congress? (1)

KarmaMB84 (743001) | more than 8 years ago | (#14953073)

I've patented the though process required to sentence me to prison. I'm going to go rob a bank now.

R.E.M anyone? (1, Insightful)

boardin_1 (151378) | more than 8 years ago | (#14952782)

Sing along. I'm sure you know the words...

"It's the end of the world as we know it...It's the end of the world as we know it..."

The Patent System is Broken (4, Interesting)

Fitzghon (578350) | more than 8 years ago | (#14952791)

The patent system is definitely broken. It is bogging down innovation with lawsuits and silly claims. It is very nice to see Crichton on the offensive about this issue, and hopefully he and Research in Motion (RIM) will be able to trigger some more response and reform in the patent office. As was noted earlier on ./ RIM is running full-page ads (cf. http://www.rcrnews.com/news.cms?newsId=25858 [rcrnews.com] ) protesting the patent office situation.

Fitzghon

Re:The Patent System is Broken (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 8 years ago | (#14952809)

Until I read TFA, I didn't realize he was that MICHAEL CRICHTON.
Lawyers now advise ... screenwriters to patent their movie plots. (My screenplay for "Jurassic Park" was cited as a good candidate.)
I just assumed it was a guy with a similiar name.

Has he always been active in the opinion/commentary field?

Re:The Patent System is Broken (1)

sabre86 (730704) | more than 8 years ago | (#14952827)

Yeah, he has. If I can dig up the link to one of his speeches, I'll post it.

Re:The Patent System is Broken (1)

manboy9 (891227) | more than 8 years ago | (#14952896)

Yes, very much so. He's been particularly active aginst the global warming crowd. His latest novel, State of Fear, is essentially a criticism of how our society has essentially shut down all scientific debate on global warming, and how it's just the latest "sky is falling" theory to emerge to scare the general population.

You can find some more of his views here [crichton-official.com] . His speech in front of the senate commitee is particularly interesting.

Re:The Patent System is Broken (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14952899)

Research in Motion are acting as complete hypocrits in regards to patents. They don't really have much of a leg to stand on, seeing as how they themselves have sued and sued often. Let's not even get into their antics in their court case with NTP, where they basically lied to the court when attempting to prove prior art.

RIM is the one of the last companies you want to portray as on the side of fighting patent law. Their agenda is wholly subserving.

Not lookin' good (1)

vishbar (862440) | more than 8 years ago | (#14952793)

My prediction: it's going to go pro-patent. The court system has been consistently ruling against the people of the USA (i.e. Google). I don't think SCOTUS is going to be very accomodating with Sam Alito and John Roberts on the bench.

Re:Not lookin' good (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14952845)

I don't think anyone can predict how the court will rule. There have been some topsy-turvy decisions lately.

For example, in the landmark eminent domain case, all the conservative justices lined up on the side of the little guy against big corporate land grabs. All the liberals lined up against individual rights and on the side of big business. I certainly didn't foresee that turn of events, and I don't think anyone else did.

Re:Not lookin' good (1)

Just Some Guy (3352) | more than 8 years ago | (#14952866)

The court system has been consistently ruling against the people of the USA (i.e. Google).

Please clarify what you mean. Are you saying that they ruled against Google, the people? Or that the ruled for Google and against the people? Care to cite the case?

Re:Not lookin' good (1)

Autochthonous Lagomo (962003) | more than 8 years ago | (#14953087)

I'm thinking (and hoping) you might be wrong. From what I have been able to figure out about Roberts and Alito, they are more of the state-rights paleo-conservatives. While they are definitely the sort to overturn Roe vs Wade in favour of states being allowed to make their own decisions on abortion issues (and thus ushering in preclusions in many such states), I don't know if you are right about what they would decide here. Could be that they would look critically upon the idea, as supposed small-government conservatives who loathe the idea of more regulation and enforcement done by officials in power. Here's hoping, anyway.

Out of control IP makes me wonder if (4, Funny)

vrimj (750402) | more than 8 years ago | (#14952796)

maybe the tower of Babel was actually a restrictive IP regime... someone got copyright on the alphabet so someone else had to reverse-engineer to avoid licensing fees

Re:Out of control IP makes me wonder if (1)

cpuffer_hammer (31542) | more than 8 years ago | (#14952835)

In some sence you may be correct. I often look at the Bible as an outlines, or ideas that bring thoughts or trends to light. So the story of the Tower Babel may be an idea that puts light on ideas and trends that are bad for communiction and understanding. It is clear that a large public domain fed ditectly and from the private domain is better for comminication and understanding than the alternative.

OMG! (1)

consonant (896763) | more than 8 years ago | (#14952875)

God has teh patented the entire world!!11eleven

How you know you're at the wretched extreme (5, Funny)

HangingChad (677530) | more than 8 years ago | (#14952805)

The Supreme Court of the United States will hear a landmark patent case involving whether or not thoughts and relationships are patentable.

You'd think with all the big issues facing the country something like this wouldn't pass the laugh test. Yet it's made it all the way to the Supreme Court.

If thoughts turn out to be patentable, then I'm going to be first in line to patent any sexual or obscene thought involving a virtualization of another human being, animal or farm implement used for or engaging in sexual activity, for the purpose of self-stimulation.

Then I'm going sue every one of you wankers on /. :) It'll give whole new meaning to the phrase "penny for your thoughts".

Re:How you know you're at the wretched extreme (1)

dangitman (862676) | more than 8 years ago | (#14952834)

If thoughts turn out to be patentable, then I'm going to be first in line to patent any sexual or obscene thought involving a virtualization of another human being, animal or farm implement used for or engaging in sexual activity, for the purpose of self-stimulation.

Sorry, I have prior art on that.

Re:How you know you're at the wretched extreme (1)

mr_walrus (410770) | more than 8 years ago | (#14952948)

>Sorry, I have prior art on that.

i did a prior over some art once....

Re:How you know you're at the wretched extreme (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 8 years ago | (#14953029)

It does seem that the next step would be to patent the process of acquiring a patent and then suing anyone who uses it. Granted, that would be too broad, but if you were slightly more specific, for example, specifying that the patent for the invention has to be in a specific field, you would end up effectively abolishing all patents in that field.

Possible angle of attack (2, Interesting)

A Pressbutton (252219) | more than 8 years ago | (#14952808)

Use the law against the patent holders.
If I was ill and someone actively prevented me from receiving medical aid then I am su re that that person would be breaking the law.
If the owner of the Hepatitis C virus is standing in the way of a possible cure, surely they are doing the same thing to all Hepatitis C sufferers.
I hope you can hear the rumbling of a class action lawsuit in the distance.

Before anyone responds - well fine, but this means that we should be able to sue hospitals for not providing free drugs - this is wrong - it is very unlikely that researchers will use any of the patent holders knowledge.

Oh, the naivete (4, Insightful)

metamatic (202216) | more than 8 years ago | (#14952879)

If I was ill and someone actively prevented me from receiving medical aid then I am sure that that person would be breaking the law.

Thousands of people in the third world die every day because western corporations deny them the right to manufacture patented drugs, and they can't afford to buy them at our prices.

There have also been cases where drugs have been made unavailable at any price, because the patent holder has refused to manufacture them or license the patents. For example, Mifepristone (RU-486) was kept off the US market for a while [motherjones.com] because the patent holder was unwilling to sell a politically incorrect drug in the USA, and it took a lot of pressure to get them to license the patent.

So I'm afraid if a patent prevented you from getting vital medical aid, you would simply be allowed to die. That's the way US capitalism works.

Re:Possible angle of attack (5, Interesting)

tengwar (600847) | more than 8 years ago | (#14953082)

A more elegant solution: if you hold the patent on the diabetes gene, you should be held responsible for all cases of diabetes, treated or not.

Let's just stop science anyway... (1)

pimpimpim (811140) | more than 8 years ago | (#14952813)

Never thought it would come to this, that someone came up even with this idea!

There are a lot of mechanisms in a human body, and often there are several ways to have medicines interact with malfunction systems, you can block certain receptors, or stimulate others, with more or less the same outcome. Often it is good to have medicines at hand with different working mechanisms, because not everyone will react the same. What the heck, sometimes even the formulation (coated capsule, prolonged release tablet, etc) can change a lot in the effect! There are at leat 10 mechanisms to prevent high blood pressure, for example, all using superficially similar, but in the end pretty different methods. It takes a lot of effort to figure all these mechanisms out!

If this patenting of a link between two biological levels would be defended successfully, you can forget new medicines coming. No way that any company will start investing on new medicines on anything, since most vague descriptions on how medicines work will be patented already, and there's just no money to get. You can extend this to any field, actually. Plasma screens, LEDs, OLEDS, all ways to show images without a CRT, would be idiotic of someone held the patent on them all just because he thought out one of those techniques.

Re:Let's just stop science anyway... (1)

griffjon (14945) | more than 8 years ago | (#14953122)

I'm going to patent the digestive process. Not only will I be able to collect a progressive royalty (poor people eat less, therefore would pay less -- it's fair, see?) from EVERYONE in the world, I could sue anyone that gives a shit about it, is nauseated by my overreaching patent-grab, or predicts that the shit will hit the fan.

Dude, I invented "hella" (1)

Sargeant Slaughter (678631) | more than 8 years ago | (#14952823)

And I'm patenting the thought of that dumbass word. So, all you Nor-Cal chumps have to pay me royalties everytime you even think of saying "hella" again.

US Plus! (1, Offtopic)

Mr Z (6791) | more than 8 years ago | (#14952831)

US-Plus: [firesigntheatre.com] We own the idea [firesigntheatre.com] of the idea [firesigntheatre.com] of America!

Re:US Plus! (1)

Mr Z (6791) | more than 8 years ago | (#14953137)

Uh, hello? This is NOT off topic. The tagline of Firesign Theatre's imaginary entity, US Plus, is "We own the idea of America," and later that gets extended to "We own the idea of the idea of America." That's humor aimed directly at the heart of the case going to the SCOTUS. How is that off topic? The Firesigns were dead on, IMHO.

"Mmmm! Is that real pork?"

--Joe

It's starting (1)

quokkapox (847798) | more than 8 years ago | (#14952843)

The general public is starting to gain an awareness of how bad things have gotten with the current patent/copyright regime. We have the recent RIM/NTP debacle, we have a NYT op-ed piece by Michael Crichton. It's a start. Oh sorry, start is patented. It's a beginning.

Re:It's starting (1)

thesnarky1 (846799) | more than 8 years ago | (#14952886)

Beginning? What is a beginning but thinking about the start? That'll be $2500 please, or I'll see you in court.

Cue the jokes about thoughtcrime... (1)

pla (258480) | more than 8 years ago | (#14952870)

No, seriously... We need to remind the asshats in Washington that we consider the idea of legislating thought so obnoxious that we mock the very idea.

They might not get the jokes, but we'll still have the last laugh, one way or another...

Time to eliminate patents (1)

Surt (22457) | more than 8 years ago | (#14952882)

Patents do nothing but stifle innovation. Time to get rid of patents and put everything squarely into copyright. Let independent invention work to the benefit of everyone.

Re:Time to eliminate patents (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14952924)

To an extent, patents are necessary to allow costly long-term research to profit... take pharmeceuticals, for example. It makes no economic sense for a company to dump money into research if everyone benefits.

Re:Time to eliminate patents (1)

Surt (22457) | more than 8 years ago | (#14952982)

That's not necessary in a couple of ways:

1) we can move to a publicly funded research model (which would have the added advantage of preferring cures to maintenance drugs)
and/or
2) we can allow copyright protections on drugs, which would mean that any rip-off cure would have to be significantly chemically different.

Ah, but (1)

XanC (644172) | more than 8 years ago | (#14953020)

Patents expire much quicker than copyrights, and then the drug (or whatever) is in the public domain, and has been published for all to see.

The first thin wedge (4, Interesting)

Stephen Samuel (106962) | more than 8 years ago | (#14952887)

Hopefully the SCOTUS has chosen this as a poster boy for the inanity of the current Patent system... The first thin wedge of peeling back the move to patent any and everything including software.

I have a dream .....

Re:The first thin wedge (2, Funny)

bcmg150 (913270) | more than 8 years ago | (#14953039)

I have a dream ..... And I patented it.

Actually, that is copyrighted (1)

Teancum (67324) | more than 8 years ago | (#14953102)

and please send the royalty recept to the heirs of Dr. Martin Luther King.

Seriously.

CBS television was sued, successfully, for copyright infringement because they played back the (now infamous from this perspective) "I Have a Dream" speech that they recorded with their own cameras and recording equipment.

This is yet another example of how intellectual property laws are simply getting absurd. It is driving me nuts enough that I wonder why I even write or do anything that requires thought.

Please please PLEASE RTFA (2, Interesting)

consonant (896763) | more than 8 years ago | (#14952890)

It is brilliantly written.

Especially the ending - I reproduce it here (spoiler warning :-P)
I wanted to end this essay by telling a story about how current rulings hurt us, but the patent for "ending an essay with an anecdote" is owned. So I thought to end with a quotation from a famous person, but that strategy is patented, too. I then decided to end abruptly, but "abrupt ending for dramatic effect" is also patented. Finally, I decided to pay the "end with summary" patent fee, since it was the least expensive.

The Supreme Court should rule against Metabolite, and the Patent Office should begin to reverse its strategy of patenting strategies. Basic truths of nature can't be owned.

Oh, and by the way: I own the patent for "essay or letter criticizing a previous publication." So anyone who criticizes what I have said here had better pay a royalty first, or I'll see you in court.

Re:Please please PLEASE RTFA (1)

mccoma (64578) | more than 8 years ago | (#14952926)

Oh, and by the way: I own the patent for "essay or letter criticizing a previous publication."

Dude is going to make a mint off slashdot

And read the briefs too. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14952952)

From the Respondent's brief:

"Respondents [Metabolite] do not seek, and the '658 patent does not claim, a monopoly on the correlation between total homocysteine and vitamin deficiencies. Rather, the Inventors have patented a particular application of that correlation, when used as a sequential step in a diagnostic method."

http://www.abanet.org/publiced/preview/briefs/pdfs /05-06/04-607_Respondents.pdf [abanet.org]

Translation: they aren't asking for a patent on the correlation, or even on thoughts, about the correlation, even though that's how LabCorp has tried to characterize it.

Re:And read the briefs too. (1)

thrillseeker (518224) | more than 8 years ago | (#14953053)

"the Inventors have patented a particular application of that correlation, when used as a sequential step in a diagnostic method" ... they aren't asking for a patent on the correlation, or even on thoughts, about the correlation, even though that's how LabCorp has tried to characterize it

Yes they are. Without being able to reason about a necessary step to arrive at a conclusion, the conclusion may not be logically arrived at. The application of logic is sometimes called Thought. What do you think doctors should do ... see the need to do a particular test to determine a relationship, and just wave their hands instead and jump to an unsupported conclusion?

Re:Please please PLEASE RTFA (2)

Potor (658520) | more than 8 years ago | (#14953021)

actually, i thought it was brilliantly written until the the end, when he pulls out and flogs to death that inane /. joke (which is just one level above quoting monty python or office space).

isn't this more simple than that? (4, Insightful)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 8 years ago | (#14952891)

The relationship between physical things, such as B12 and some disease is not an invention, it is an observation. Thinking that there is a relationship is not licensed, and therefore cannot be held as private works. Proving the relationship is, more or less, like writing a book. Once you've written it, no one else can claim they did it first. That still doesn't give anyone the right to say no one else can use that relationship, even for the length of a patent.

Thoughts are not inventions, and patent law does not apply. The reason for patent laws was to allow those who acted on their thoughts first to use them for some gain. There has to be an 'invention' for any patent to be issuable, and a discovery of how nature works is not an invention, just as no one can patent 'air' or gravity, no one can patent the relationship between two things that happens in nature.

An example: Many thought of powered flight, but it was the Wright brothers who did it. There is a show on cable lately about how Star Trek created the modern world, or many of the technologies in it, yet the show's creators and writers do not have patents on things like the ion drive, or medical technologies. If this is not smacked down HARD, it will be science fiction writers who own the world in the next century, and they will not be friendly to big business IMO.

Mr. Clarke gave us communications satellites (IIRC) and other science fiction writers would have dibs on tons of things that big business just can't get their minds around yet, like say... talking computers? Mining technologies? cures for diseases? ... the list goes on.

Once that is pointed out to the lawyers I think it will all die the quick death of "That was a fscking bad idea, fire the guy who thought of that"....

Re:isn't this more simple than that? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14952937)

I'm afraid you have it wrong.

In a sane system, the patent on thoughts wouldn't stand a chance, but this is an insane system, where the most powerful entities in the world have done everythin in their power to change the rules. In the US, you can get patents on business processes and discoveries today. Thas is the reality, and it stinks big time. You may need a new revolution in order for the people to take control of the country again. Right now your government is owned by Coca Cola, Mickey Mouse and the other big corporations.

simple really... (5, Funny)

srussia (884021) | more than 8 years ago | (#14952897)

The USPTO has a page clearly explaining what can be patented: [uspto.gov]

A few choice excerpts:
In the language of the statute, any person who "invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof, may obtain a patent,"

The terms are then defined:
The word "process" is defined by law as a process, act or method, and primarily includes industrial or technical processes.
So "process" really means processes, and "acts" and "methods" as well.

The term "machine" used in the statute needs no explanation.
Gee, thanks for that "explanation".

Some more gems:
The term "manufacture" refers to articles which are made, and includes all manufactured articles.
These classes of subject matter taken together include practically everything which is made by man and the processes for making the products.
The term "useful" in this connection refers to the condition that the subject matter has a useful purpose


These guys really need a primer on "circular definitions".

I'll be happy to start them off: Circular definitions are definitions that are, ya know, circular.

Michael Crichton = Un-Informed (3, Interesting)

Absolut187 (816431) | more than 8 years ago | (#14952917)

This essay contains many flawed assertions and shows a clear misunderstanding of patent law.

Here are a few flaws:

1) Scientific principles are not patentable. "A principle is not patentable." Le Roy v. Tatham, 55 U.S. 156, 159 (1852)
However, a practical application of a scientific principle may be patented. The real question is whether the patent is properly categorized as a scientific principle or not.

2)

It means that if a real estate agent lists a house for sale, he can be sued because an existing patent for selling houses includes item No. 7, "List the house."

Obviously Mr. Crichton has not been informed of the "all elements" rule.
Literal infringement requires infringement of every single element in a claim. Although it is technically true that "he can be sued", it is also true that anyone can be sued at any time for anything. The point is, the case would be dismissed.

3)
Nevertheless 20 percent of the genome is now privately owned.

The genes themselves are not owned. A "product of nature" - a naturally occurring substance discovered in the wild - may not be patented per se.
However, a method for extracting, isolating, and purifying a gene may be patentable. But keep in mind that patents only last for 20 years - so these patented methods will be publicly available for free in less than 20 years. And others are still free to find other methods of extraction.

Certainly Mr. Crichton can afford an introductory class in patent law.
Hopefully he will be better informed the next time he publishes an essay.
Because this type of uninformed nonsense passed off as fact is really annoying.

Re:Michael Crichton = Un-Informed (2, Interesting)

tepples (727027) | more than 8 years ago | (#14952981)

Literal infringement requires infringement of every single element in a claim.

It also requires infringement of every element of only one claim in a given patent.

Re:Michael Crichton = Un-Informed (4, Interesting)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 8 years ago | (#14953145)

I agree, and as far as I am concerned the publication of an article in the NYT that is so obviously full of factual errors exposes the editorial staff of what used to be a great newspaper as incompetant.Such ridiculous articles do nothing to further and in reality detract from efforts to promote real and needed patent reform.

The US patent process has some serious problems chief amoung them being the granting of business process patents and secondarily granting patents for material that does not actually constitute an invention. Congress should make it clear in patent reform legislation that a patent should only be granted for something novel and useful, and business proceses should not be covered. Software patents are an area of great abuse at present - many trivial ideas are being patented.

BTW, the following article describes in a much more cogent way the issues with this particular case than the Crichton editorial.

http://patentlaw.typepad.com/patent/2005/10/labcor p_v_metab_1.html [typepad.com]

Absurd (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14952918)

This is yet another example clearly showing why patents should be limited to physical inventions. Not discoveries, not processes, not abstractions, but actual physical things.

patent invention (1, Funny)

backwardMechanic (959818) | more than 8 years ago | (#14952922)

I'm going to patent the idea of inventing stuff. Ha!

Re:patent invention (1)

KenDodd (961972) | more than 8 years ago | (#14952951)

Too late! I have just filed a patent for the idea of *thinking* about inventing stuff! Huh! :-)

Re:patent invention (1)

backwardMechanic (959818) | more than 8 years ago | (#14952995)

But I have a patent on thinking of smart ways to stop me getting rich. Talk to my lawyers!

1, 2, 3, Profit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14952925)

Aha!

1. patent diagnostic method
2. sue various members of medical community to block them from using patented method
3. watch patients start going for analyses outside the US where the patent will not be enforceable
4. PROFIT!!!! from ... umm ... err ... no, wait ... no, really, there's got to be some who will have no choice but to pay for it, right? RIGHT??? well, we'll milk those suckers dry then!!!

capitalism... (1)

Fluffy_Kitten (911430) | more than 8 years ago | (#14952930)

1. patent capitalism 2. sue america 3. ... 4. PROFIT!!!

But (1)

KenDodd (961972) | more than 8 years ago | (#14952936)

Hey, I was the first to think of patenting thoughts! Watch out underlings of the Justice Department, I plan to unleash a rabid, underfed pack of IP lawyers on you very soon. :)

Just charge for any transaction (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14952942)

Just charge for any transaction, whether it be video to the eyes, thoughts to the brain, or actions to reactions. Forget patents, just call them "transactions" and charge for everything. Of course everyone will want their fair share, so the profits made from this will go to the poor companies not making any products that can't make money like all of the companies that just produce things customers want, just like we have taxes on writable media now to compensate distribution companies, etc.

Illogical (1)

gerbalblaste (882682) | more than 8 years ago | (#14952956)

So if i were to reference in a scientific paper the idea that there is a connection between these two factors i would have to pay royalties?

The idea of patenting a thought is completely illogical, and also unenforceable. Wouldn't this render it impossible to discuss this concept unless approved by the patent holders?

It is extremely unlikely a patent on the act of thought will stand up in court. especially since this 'thought' that has been patented could be crucial in preventing heart disease in many patients. This patent is attempting to gain royalties off of a logical process based upon scientific research. If this patent were enforceable almost all industries involving some sort of problem solving or diagnosis would suffer from a surge of patent attempting to gain royalties off of someone trying to help another person and to do their job.

The patent would also be near unenforceable. Barring Orwellian thought police monitoring the doctors every action there is no way to prove that a doctor looked at a test result and thought 'Hmm... this patient has elevated homocysteine levels they might have a b-12 deficiency'. And if the doctor does act on that thought there is no way to collect royalties on the hundreds of thousands of doctors who are now aware of this concept and will act in the best interest of their patients and their practice and tell the patients to take more vitamins.

Outsourcing? (1)

DarthChris (960471) | more than 8 years ago | (#14952984)

US patents (currently) only hold in the US. What's to stop companies from researching these topics in countries un-encumbered by screwed patent/copyright laws?
Or do I just have a simplistic view of the world?

Re:Outsourcing? (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 8 years ago | (#14953060)

I don't think anything is. However, any research based on these ideas would still be unusable in the US. The rest of the world is quite a large place, so the scientific research would still happen. The problem is that the US would be unable to benefit.

Obligatory statement (1, Insightful)

null etc. (524767) | more than 8 years ago | (#14952991)

I have been advised that I have an obligation to post the following cliche joke:

I'm gonna patent the act of creating stupid patents.
I understand that the preceding joke was a cliche, posted to every /. story regarding patents. However, the cliche review board noticed that such a joke was lacking on this thread, and hence forced me to post it. Please do not punish my karma for this. Thank you.

inciting others to infringe thought patents (2, Funny)

Eric Smith (4379) | more than 8 years ago | (#14953024)

Michael Crichton's essay in the New York Times attempts a thoughtful summary of Metabolite's primary assertion: they not only own the connection between homocysteine levels in the blood and vitamin B12 deficiency, but also any thought connecting the two
Great. So MC has not only infringed the Metabolite patent by thinking about the connection between homocysteine levels and vitamin B12 deficiency, but by publishing the article he has incited all the readers to also infringe the patent. And now I'm probably inciting more people to infringe.

Own this... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14953026)

" they not only own the connection between homocysteine levels in the blood and vitamin B12 deficiency, but also any thought connecting the two"

I think it's bullshit. Do they own that?

I win this game (2, Insightful)

hyperbotfly (934309) | more than 8 years ago | (#14953028)

1. Patent the patent system 2. ??? 3. PROFIT!

I am Scotus of Borg (1)

Prototerm (762512) | more than 8 years ago | (#14953036)

The Patent Office shall add your distinctivenes to our own. Resistance (as well as ohms, voltage, and other scientific knowledge) is futile.

Let me be the first to say (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14953046)

Oh, for fuck's sake...

The PATENT, The CASE, and the PETITION FOR CERT (4, Interesting)

Absolut187 (816431) | more than 8 years ago | (#14953090)

The patent: 4940658 [uspto.gov]

The citation to the federal circuit case, which held the patent valid and infringed, is: 370 F.3d 1354
The case held the following:

Evidence supported finding that physicians using test that measured level of marker chemical in bodily fluids infringed patent for method of detecting vitamin deficiencies, for purpose of determining whether test supplier was liable for induced or contributory infringement; purpose of measuring chemical was to correlate its level to patient's vitamin levels, as called for in patent.
Evidence supported finding that laboratory's performance of vitamin deficiency test was intended to induce physicians' infringement of patent for method of detecting vitamin deficiencies; laboratory advertised test as method of determining vitamin deficiencies in manner called for by patent.


The infringed claim is claim 13:
Claim 13 claims the total homocysteine test:

13. A method for detecting a deficiency of cobalamin or folate in warm-blooded animals comprising the steps of: assaying a body fluid for an elevated level of total homocysteine; and correlating an elevated level of total homocysteine in said body fluid with a deficiency of cobalamin or folate.


The Supreme Court will hear only the third question presented in the petition for cert:

3. Whether a method patent setting forth an indefinite, undescribed, and non-enabling step directing a party simply to "correlat[e]" test results can validly claim a monopoly over a basic scientific relationship used in medical treatment such that any doctor necessarily infringes the patent merely by thinking about the relationship after looking at a test result.


From petitioner's reply brief:

Respondents' brief is notable for what it does not contest. Respondents do not contest that, under the Federal Circuit's construction, every doctor who orders a homocysteine test and simply thinks about what the result might signify has infringed Claim 13. They do not contest that this holding has allowed them to monopolize all homocysteine testing, whether accomplished via methods existing before the Patent application, methods developed thereafter, or methods yet to be developed.


Interesting article:
http://www.theiplawblog.com/archives/patent-law-44 -testing-again-the-bounds-of-patentable-subject-ma tter.html [theiplawblog.com]

Poorly researched, poorly argued (2, Insightful)

Phronesis (175966) | more than 8 years ago | (#14953109)

Crichton whines that the relationship between B vitamins and homocysteine is patented without appearing to have read the papers published in NEJM this week demonstrating quite persuasively that this relationship has no clinical value: vitamin B supplements for patients with high homocysteine don't affect patient outcomes.

Second, Crichton whines about the patents on the Hep-C virus genome. What he doesn't mention is for a decade no one managed to isolate Hep C virus or sequence its genome. Chiron took a big gamble and succeeded where everyone else had failed. If there were no patent rights in the offing, would we even have a Hepatitis C genome sequence to squabble over? This is a debatable question, but Chrichton is more interested in taking cheap shots than in substance. This is quite in character for him.

Finally, Crichton complains about people potentially patenting ways to end an essay, but perhaps he is so sensitive about this because he plagiarized the Afterword to State of Fear from Richard Lindzen. Crichton copies (without attribution) the thesis of Lindzen's 1985 essay, Science and Politics: Global Warming and Eugenics [mit.edu] . It's interesting that with all Crichton's footnotes and bilbiographic apparatus, he never references this essay or offers Lindzen credit for the ideas.

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