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Patents Science

Patents Chilling Effect on Science 383

cheesedog writes "The American Association for the Advancement of Science recently conducted a survey on the effect of patenting on the sciences. The results are frightening: 1/5th or more of all research projects in the United States are being chilled by patent holders. The sheer amount of research being canceled because of licensing issues is astounding, but at the same time many of these researchers hold their own patents and therefore contribute to the problem."
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Patents Chilling Effect on Science

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  • Shear (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 09, 2005 @10:59PM (#13994898)
    Obligatory spelling Nazi post:

    From the summary: "The shear amount of research..."

    According to Webster,

    Function: noun
    1 a cutting implement similar or identical to a pair of scissors but typically larger -- usually used in plural.
    2 chiefly British : the action or process or an instance of shearing.
    3 internal force tangential to the section on which it acts -- called also shearing force

    What I think they meant to say was:


    Function: adjective
    3 a: UNQUALIFIED, UTTER b : being free from an adulterant : PURE, UNMIXED c : viewed or acting in dissociation from all else
  • Actual report (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 09, 2005 @11:46PM (#13995120)
    You can see the actual report here [aaas.org].
  • by calbanese ( 169547 ) on Thursday November 10, 2005 @12:00AM (#13995187) Homepage
    (IAAL but I haven't done much work with software patents)

    Either the grandparent is mistaken or confused, and you are correct. Patents are published so that others can use and improve them. You can not use them in commercial products, though. But if it is a valid patent it would be available on the USPTO website, available to researchers to use for research projects.

    If the code is copyrighted, then you won't be able to see it unless you sign their forms etc. (assuming the source isn't just floating around online) as you do not need to submit the entire work to the Copyright Office to get a copyright, and even when submitted for registration it is not published online.

    That being said, you could develop your own code that performs exactly the same function in exactly the same way and as long as you can prove you had no access to the original (or if the hardware requires constraints that everyone would have to use), then you are in the clear, even if it 'infringes.' Getting a registered copyright costs little more then a stamp - its nothing like a patent. Since they won't release the code to you without a contract, you have a strong case that you didn't have access to it and developed the code on your own. So there is no problem with you developing your own code, or, if it truly is patented, seeing the patent and implementing the code as long as its for research.
  • by cpt kangarooski ( 3773 ) on Thursday November 10, 2005 @12:10AM (#13995234) Homepage
    They were originally set up to expire in 17 years with the option for one renewal.

    What the fuck are you talking about? Patent terms in the US were 14 years from issue, then 17 years from issue, then 20 years from filing. No renewals; in fact, you generally have to pay up periodically just to get the full, single, term.

    I think you're confusing patents and copyrights (which originally were 14+14 years)

    That means that knowledge would be locked down for a maximum of 34 years.

    Publication requirements ensure that knowledge isn't 'locked down.' It's not directly usable, perhaps, but it's commonly available.
  • by queenb**ch ( 446380 ) on Thursday November 10, 2005 @12:15AM (#13995273) Homepage Journal
    Not true. Through a varieity of loopholes, they are almost infinitely renewable. My implication was that the period is NOT becoming shorter, but is instead becoming almost indefinite.

    2 cents,

    Queen B
  • Total UNINFORMED BS (Score:3, Informative)

    by MushMouth ( 5650 ) on Thursday November 10, 2005 @12:44AM (#13995427) Homepage
    people use to be able to ammend their application forever to effectively extend their patent, but now the expire 20 years after filing PERIOD. While drug companies change their formula slightlty and re-patent, the original formula is available for generics.

  • by bitingduck ( 810730 ) on Thursday November 10, 2005 @03:32AM (#13995988) Homepage
    Many people don't realize that the relatively modern addition of variable speed windshield wipers were invented in the early part of the previous century. I forget the exact year.
    Now, however, that the patent has expired this is a standard feature on most automobiles.

    It appeared on most automobiles long before the patent expired. A family friend sat on the jury when it went to trial with one of the big auto companies. According to this: http://www.inc.com/magazine/19971201/1374.html [inc.com] he's collected about $30M so far from Ford and Chrysler.
  • shear != sheer (Score:3, Informative)

    by danharan ( 714822 ) on Thursday November 10, 2005 @04:19AM (#13996118) Journal
    define:shear [google.com],
    define:sheer [google.com].

    Although when talking about about researched being cancelled, shear does make for pretty vivid imagery. baaah!
  • by ebyrob ( 165903 ) on Thursday November 10, 2005 @08:48AM (#13996715)
    Microsoft is a natural monopoly. It got there without the "ususal culprits" you describe.

    Like say copyright?

    From the great-grandparent:
    Copyright gives incredible power to the top publishers (with a lock on book stores), the recording industry, and the movie distributors.

    And software developers even moreso it appears... Not everyone has to read the same book, but there's incredible pressure to do so with say operating systems.
  • by synthespian ( 563437 ) on Thursday November 10, 2005 @09:40AM (#13996935)
    Industries should also be somewhat limited in their actions. In Brazil, a topic that worries people is biopiracy. We had some bad experiences in this area. A Japanese company, for instance, tried to secure a patent for the cupuaçu fruit, a chocolate-substitute from the Amazon. Pure theft. The government put up a fight and won. Anthropologists have also denounced excursions by biologists collecting Amazonian and Xingu indians' native medicine know-how. There have been a few arrests in that area. There's been some concern about evangelical missionaires amongst the indians, as no one knows for sure who they are.
    In another example, Mr. Craig Venter wanted to collect microorganisms from the shores of Brazil, but the government did not allow his boat to come in a 200-mile distance from the coast. Today, he's on newspaper saying the Brazilian government hinders research, but all the government wants is that any commercial benefits be shared. All Craig Venters wants is to steal.
    Biopiracy is another aspect of the patent system gone wrong. Except, it's one that doesn't affect developed countries. Brazil is a Latin-American powerhouse that can and will muster a reaction everytime this happens, but there are smaller countries that cannot.
    In fact, the whole thing of biopiracy and patents is absurd. The notion that organisms found in the Amazonian rain-forest "belong" to Brazilians is absurd, but so is the notion that a foreign company can come into this country, collect plants and organisms, go back to its original country and file a patent for a molecule or a gene.

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