Monthly Archives: August 2008

Call for applications for research fellowships  
We received an announcement this week from Bioversity International for calls for applications to the Vavilov-Frankel Fellowships for 2009.  The Vavilov-Frankel Fellowships Fund “aims to encourage the conservation and use of plant genetic resources in developing countries by awarding Fellowships to outstanding young researchers to carry out relevant innovative research at an advanced research institute outside their own country for a period of between three months and one year.”  Please visit the above link to the Bioversity website for further details, guidelines and application forms.

Grammar matters! Keeping an eye on typing mistakes while filing patents…
We all well know how much energy and funds are invested in each patent application! However, few may be aware that one seemingly small task, the proofreading, can be extremely critical for the patentee. The proofreading of issued patents is vital to correct any error that may have crept in during the prosecution process. A recent study of the Unites States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) database revealed that almost all issued US patents have at least one error in them. The unfortunate outcome of typing mistakes in patents is that if a patent with such an error goes up for enforcement before a court, the court delays its enforcement until the error is corrected and a Certificate of Correction (CoC) is obtained from the USPTO. So, grammar matters!

Piracy. It’s not always bad news for rights holders …
The above link is a short article from about piracy.  It includes some examples of how piracy, whilst in many cases almost impossible to stop, can be turned around.  Of particular interest was a case of pirated GM soya bean.  The widespread use of the pirated version apparently helped persuade a reluctant Brazilian government to grant approval for their legitimate use – thus opening up a previously closed market for the rights owners Monsanto.

Very significant ruling; Open Source licence can take the heat of litigation! They are a valid licence in the U.S.!
Victoria Henson-Apollonio sent the above link – she wrote:

“Interesting tale on the side…. Owner of a patent on software for controlling model train (Katzer) holds that another person, a train model hobbyist (Jacobsen) is infringing one of his patents by distributing software (the Jacobsen developed) under an open source license.  Jacobsen hired an attorney, Victoria K. Hall, (through the Electronic Freedom Foundation; EFF; who then filed a declaratory judgment against Katzer in an effort to question the validity of the patent rights held by Katzer.

This then resulted in this court case which ended up in the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) on an appeal by Jacobsen of a ruling by a lower court, the US District Court for the Northern District of California. 

Along the way there were filings by Katzer’s attorney, Kevin Russell, under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to have information disclosed from Jacobsen’s workplace, –which happens to be a U.S. Department of Energy Laboratory, the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory.  This action then prompted Jacobsen to file a suit against Russell for defamation, as Jacobsen felt that Russell only filed his FOIA request to harass and embarrass Katzer.

In the meantime, Attorney Hall published several requests to the on-line software community, for help in finding prior art to use against the claims in Katzer’s patent.”

Background links to the above story: (April 20th, 2006 entry)

Enola Update! Proctor has filed an appeal – the case could now go to the U.S Supreme Court.
There has been some news regarding the Enola case.   (See our last post on the matter
The first link is an announcement from Proctor’s lawyers.  The second link is further details for information purposes.  Victoria Henson-Apollonio received official notice last week and wrote:

“I wanted to bring to your attention the news that the owner of the Enola patent, the PodNers Company (Larry Proctor) filed an appeal on 18 June, of the recent decision that confirmed the rejection of his claims by the USPTO.  (The Board of Patents Appeals and Interferences (BPAI) confirmed the rejection by the USPTO on 30 April, 2008.)  We received the official notice Friday. 

This is the last path that Proctor has to try to keep his patent claims valid.  It is possible that this case will go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.  (This depends upon many factors including, the ruling that is reached by the Court of Appeals for the (US) Federal Circuit (CAFC), the lengths to which the patent owner is ready to take a case forward, and the decision of the Supreme Court to take a case.) 
In the meantime, Proctor’s patent is valid in the U.S. and thus he can continue to charge royalties on the use and sale of yellow beans (of the “Enola” type) in the U.S. and importation of them into the U.S. as well.

We will continue to watch this case carefully and I am making inquiries with regard to filing an amicus brief that supports the BPAI decision.  I will let you know about any further events associated with this case.”

When is the right time to send the lawyers in? The row involving Hasbro, Facebook and the Scrabulous application
This story was first reported in January, but came to a head earlier this month when a lawsuit was filed.  The issue was that a Facebook application called “Scrabulous” (written by Rajat and Jayant Agarwalla) was infringing the rights of Hasbro’s traditional “Scrabble” board game.  As the debate gained momentum there were online petitions, protests and with some 700k worldwide users it was even argued that the look-alike application actually helped increase sales of traditional scrabble games!  However, clearly the name was a deliberate reference to the original game format.  Perhaps the not insignificant advertising revenues the creators of the online application were netting led Hasbro to file the lawsuit.  There has been a lot of debate due to the popularity of the application and hence wider PR issues that were involved.  The online debate I have linked to outlined the pros and cons.  It’s an interesting case, particularly if one reads the continued comments that explore options that could have been explored to resolve this issue whilst responding to the opportunities offered by the new online environment.

Fair use and copyright – a short film
Victoria sent me this link – it’s a post on a blog called – they seek to keep science open and are committed to changing the way that research is disseminated.  This particular link is to a short film that outlines the problems that a PhD student had with some copyright issues.  It’s not agriculture related but highlights some important points.

3 useful links for patent searching
Today’s post is a list of resources FYI.  Thanks to my colleague Sebastian Derwisch who recently sent me the first link to  It’s a free IP resource to do worldwide patent searches, accessing 60+ patent offices in one search box.  (FYI Google Patent Search searches only the USPTO).  The second link is from with links to other available patent search tools, along with some comments.  Finally, I mentioned this entry to Victoria here in the office and she sent me the third link which is the “Zimmerman’s research guide” – it provides detailed info on US patent searches and there you will also find a link to foreign patents.  Happy patent searching!