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Biotech Patents Science

Patents On Synthetic Life "Extremely Damaging" 171

An anonymous reader writes "Pioneer and veteran of genomics Professor John Sulston is extremely concerned about the patent applications on the first synthetic life-form. The patents were filed by the Venter Institute following the announcement of the first life-form to have a synthetic genome. Sulston claims the patent is excessively broad and would stifle research and development in the field by creating an effective monopoly on synthetic life and related molecular techniques. Prof. Sulston had previously locked horns ten years ago with Dr. Craig Venter over intellectual property issues surrounding the human genome project. Fortunately, Sulston won the last round and the HGP is freely accessible — Venter had wanted to charge for access, just as he now wishes to make 'synthetic life' proprietary."
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Patents On Synthetic Life "Extremely Damaging"

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 25, 2010 @08:34AM (#32334558)

    Unless they made their own novel polymerases, they're just re-using existing proteins and known coding sequences. All the world is prior art. This is a software patent using a known/published language and should be disallowed.

  • Patents (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Black Parrot ( 19622 ) on Tuesday May 25, 2010 @08:48AM (#32334638)

    We should start calling them "Letters of Marque", so people will understand their purpose better.

  • by A beautiful mind ( 821714 ) on Tuesday May 25, 2010 @09:03AM (#32334820)
    I propose a viewpoint. As opposed to keeping discussion specific to individual patents or details of a certain case, we should talk about nuking the whole patent system entirely. It is a net loss. It is an archaic system based on naíve economic ideas. It is time to euthanize it.
  • by Pojut ( 1027544 ) on Tuesday May 25, 2010 @09:10AM (#32334904) Homepage

    That's the thing though...if people applied for patents that were limited in scope and describe only their invention, the system would be working exactly as it was intended to. Unfortunately, greed (on applicant's part) and complacency (on the USPTO's part) prevent this.

  • by Rogerborg ( 306625 ) on Tuesday May 25, 2010 @09:14AM (#32334944) Homepage
    Actually, bacteria can exchange genetic material []. While it's not sexual reproduction, it's still pretty damn hot if you watch it under a microscope.
  • by arth1 ( 260657 ) on Tuesday May 25, 2010 @09:18AM (#32334996) Homepage Journal

    if there was no chance for a profit, it is unlikely that Venter would have spend the last 15 years and shitloads of money on the project.

    Which would have given others with less money more of a chance to work on this, without feeling it would be fruitless to compete against the big pockets and risk being sued into oblivion.

  • Re:Patents (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Rogerborg ( 306625 ) on Tuesday May 25, 2010 @09:20AM (#32335024) Homepage

    I will trade my lunch for mod points.

    What makes this spookily accurate is the focus on global "intellectual property" enforcement regimes, so that "we can protect our interests abroad". Raw nationalist piracy on a scale that makes pillaging the Plate Fleet look like a 10 cent raid on a Take A Penny, Leave a Penny box.

    Good gravy, and wait until the Chinese get in on the act. Instead of ignoring "IP" rights and actually making things - hah, naive fools - imagine a billion Chinese patent trolls filing three patents a day each and getting rich from the sweat of your brow.

    When you start a shooting match, you'd best be sure that you're bringing the biggest guns.

  • by asukasoryu ( 1804858 ) on Tuesday May 25, 2010 @09:46AM (#32335344)

    It is an archaic system based on naíve economic ideas. It is time to fix it.

    Counterpoint: Average Joe invents something. Corporation X sees invention and masses produces it for less than Average Joe can. Corporation makes millions. Average Joe sees no profits from his invention. Haven't you seen Flash of Genius about the invention of windshield wipers? The system definitely has flaws, but doing without is not a good idea.

  • by lennier ( 44736 ) on Tuesday May 25, 2010 @07:15PM (#32342890) Homepage

    The moral of this story: if you create an honest creation to use, rather than to sell - assuming it's a creation which is beneficial to all and not something which helps the wielder while harming others (like say a weapon or a secret process which only gives your business 'competitive advantage' in a zero-sum market) - then you will lose nothing by not patenting or copyrighting it but will in fact gain hugely, as your creation will be distributed widely, make the world more efficient, spark new and better ideas, and you'll benefit personalyl from living in that improved world.

    But much of our social infrastructure views creativity as something you do primarily to sell to others, or get advantage over others. And as long as we think in that way, we'll always be threatened by creativity happening elsewhere, and therefore will seek to control and stamp out creativity in others - and view copying as a form of theft.

"Wish not to seem, but to be, the best." -- Aeschylus