Category Archives: patent

IP4inno training: free online sessions

The European Commission project IP4inno is offering a series of free Virtual Classroom Lessons (VCLs) during February and March.

These virtual sessions are tasters for training that will take place later in the  year.  More materials are available on their website or by topic below:

Monday 20 February 14:00 – 15:00 CET
Module 6B – Selling the message: how to convince SMEs that IP matters

Monday 27 February 14:00 – 15:00 CET
Module 5C – Business strategies for enforcing patents

Monday 5 March 14:00 – 15:00 CET
Module 6A – IP in the ICT sector

Monday 12 March 14:00 – 15:00 CET
Module 6A – Biotechnology patents

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Update on the Myriad (gene patent) case

There has been movement on an important gene patent case that we have followed in the past, the “Myriad” case. For more information take your pick from a range of posts on the subject on Patent Docs

PatentlyO summarised, “Guest Post: An Interesting Preview of Myriad?

“The Myriad case from the Southern District of New York, involving patent eligibility of DNA isolates derived from naturally occurring DNA, drew a great deal of attention. The court basically held such isolates ineligible for patent coverage as being too similar to the natural substances, and hence barred by the product-of-nature case law.”

This sounds like good news?  Well, even if it were as simple as that, it’s not over yet.  The case is now on appeal at the Federal Circuit. To be continued…

“Will patenting crops help feed the hungry?”

Will patenting crops help feed the hungry?” asked an article on The Conversation last week.

Interesting points made in the article include:

“In some cases, where new technologies are useful in the developed world as well as in developing nations, it may still be useful to patent those technologies. Such technologies can be licensed to seed companies in the developed world for commercial gain, whilst still providing the technologies “for free” elsewhere.”

“In the developing world, we have a policy of making technologies freely available, whether patented or not. Even if we have a patent on a gene, we can provide a no-cost license in developing countries; many large companies do the same”

“Without gene patents we would have less innovation, a solution that wouldn’t help food security at all.” (…)

Good to see solutions such as no-cost licences aired as ways to use IP in a development context.  There are alternative ways to work within the existing structures – and more discussion on these would be welcomed.

Thanks to our friends at Agrobiodiversity blog for sending the link.

Google’s move into hardware – and tech patents, and an update on patent trolls

Google’s announcement that it will buy mobile phone manufacturer Motorola Mobility will turbocharge the proliferation of the Android OS.  But the $12.5 billion deal may be more about IP.  Unlike Apple, IBM – and Motorola, Google does not own a lot of patents.  But the acquisition includes a 17,000+ technology patent portfolio that Google will be able to use both defensively and offensively.

 American Public Media’s technology reporter Steve Henn:

“If you steal someone else’s idea, you can get taken to court and you’re supposed to pay for it. But lots of software developers believe the U.S. patent system — especially when it comes to software — is just broken. It’s a total mess. There are literally thousands of patents issued for the same ideas. You know, for example, just in the last few years, Amazon was awarded a patent for creating social networks…..

….So Google, Apple, Microsoft have all gone out shopping, buying up thousands and thousands of patents. Most analysts believe it’s largely for the purpose of suing each other”

High tech players regularly game the patent system.  So Google will now have substantial leverage (and probably some trump cards) if and when sued by another player for patent infringement. You can read, or listen to, the story “Why Google wants to buy Motorola Mobility.” And make sure to read the comments!

Relevant to this discussion, I added a comment, by way of a “P.S.”, to my recent post on patent trolls.  My concern was that non-operating entities (NPEs) would start to acquire agricultural patents and expose development projects to this kind of “gaming the system”.  I subsequently visited the web site of a leading NPE, ‘Intellectual Ventures’ and discovered that they already have a portfolio of agricultural IP (emphasis added):

“Invention Portfolio: Broad Technology Market Coverage: Agriculture, automotive, communications….”

 Post written by Peter Bloch

Free EPO webcast: Biotechnology patents

Visit the EPO site “VCL – Biotechnology patents” for information about a free webcast coming up in October.  They are now taking registrations.

The summary included the following extract:

“Patents for life is an emotive topic – the subject of fierce debate and ethical concerns for over a decade. This area of patent law, more than any other, is subject to caveats, provisos and prohibitions regarding what can be patented. Technologies using proteins, enzymes, genes and stem cells stand to benefit mankind with new medical treatments, but the public, law-makers and patent offices nevertheless insist on strict limits to patent exclusivity.”

This one hour webcast is a taster for longer sit-in workshops taking place in November.

New bills to change the US patent system

Quick update on patent reform in the USA from an opinion piece in Business Week: “Let the Patent Office Keep Its Money”  

The writer’s point of view is clearly against any kind of fee diversion from the patent office.  He says the USPTO’s inability to increase staff to match the increase in patent/trademark applications has led to severe delays.  Apparently the Senate doesn’t allow the office to keep all of the fees collected and so:

 “…it now takes nearly three years for patent applications to be evaluated. This means that high-tech companies must make investment decisions without knowing for several years if their intellectual property will be protected. It’s not surprising that this uncertainty is making some of them reluctant to invest in new products and services.”

We have frequently blogged news about calls for reform to the system in the US.  There might not be consensus on exactly which reforms should be implemented, but there plenty of voices agreeing that something needs to be done to improve the current system.

(thanks to Peter Bloch for sending me this link)

Plant breeder incentives; are Plant Patents a help or a hindrance?

A recent item I put together for the Agricultural Biodiversity Weblog (thanks for the link Jeremy) has added to the arguments questioning the value of property rights over plants.  Challenging Plant Patents: the Rose

The original paper being discussed in the blog post linked above asked the question “Did Plant Patents Create the American Rose?[1]”, and they concluded that:

“Using plant patents as the sole indicator of innovation suggests that the answer is yes…A closer look, however, suggests patents played at best a secondary role, and that U.S. breeders mostly used patents strategically to protect themselves from litigation.”

The blog item (perhaps somewhat unfairly) draws the conclusion from the paper that:

“…there’s evidence that the Plant Patent Act may have served to suppress horticultural innovation rather than stimulate it”

Why is this debate of interest to us?  The research is about roses, but the Intellectual Property Rights discussion could apply equally to other plants/crops.  In our area this debate becomes even more heated when publicly funded research, and/or development issues are added into the mix.

It’s always useful that we a) take note and learn from these discussions, and b) that we remember the balance needs to be struck between protecting individual rights, and effects on the wider community.  The patent system was always supposed to tread this line.  There is more than one type of IPR available to plant breeders.  In the USA a Plant Patent is just one of three forms of formal protection available for plants from the USPTO, along with PVP and the Utility Patent.

Protection is certainly not a one way street.  Plant Patent Rights are time limited and the patented plant variety enters the public domain (with no rights attached) once the patent expires.  In addition US Plant Patents allow the protected materials to be used for breeding without the need for permission (or a license) from the patent holder, much like the breeder’s exemption for PVP rights. (See,http://www.ll.georgetown.edu/federal/judicial/fed/opinions/94opinions/94-1450.pdf)%25c2%25a0;.  This is NOT true for utility patent rights over plant varieties.

I would like to question the blog item in its comparison to Europe.  It was noted that: “European breeders, without the benefit of patents, continued to lead rose innovation”  But what about UPOV? This isn’t mentioned… 

The tools are just one piece of the overall innovation puzzle, and the innovation puzzle is a complicated one!  By raising the awareness of the uses and characteristics of the tools we can help ensure that public sector research navigates this area better.  This could mean taking steps to ensure research falls into the public domain, or by using the protections to make outputs available on specific, strategic, development-orientated terms.

The blog post included a great archive photo of the Golden Delicious apple tree (1931) caged to “prevent competitors stealing shoots.”  It’s certainly one alternative to formal protection!


[1]Moser, Petra and Rhode, Paul W., Did Plant Patents Create the American Rose? (January 4, 2011). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1735015