Human Exceptionalism

Patents: The Real Stem Cell Fight

While “the scientists” have groused about the Bush policy as interfering with ESCR advances, the real hindrance in the field have been the patents claimed by the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, based on James Thomson’s original work. As I wrote previously here and here, those patents are being challenged. Well, apparently round one goes to the Association. From the story:

The decision to uphold the 913 patent is the first in a review process that began in October 2006, when the patent office agreed to re-examine three UW-Madison stem cell patents following challenges brought by the New York-based Public Patent Foundation and the California-based Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights.

The two consumer organizations, which can appeal the decision to the Patent and Trademark Office’s Board of Patent Appeals once it is deemed final, have argued that the patents are overly broad and should never have been granted. They also contend that the patents have served to limit stem cell research in the United States.

They vowed to continue their patent challenge despite what they called “a non-final” decision by patent office regarding the inter partes re-examination of the 913 patent. WARF has 30 days to respond to the ruling, which is unlikely since it is a favorable one, and then the challenging parties would have 30 days to respond to WARF.

This fight over money illustrates a phenomenon that is too little understood in the country today: Science has become a commercial enterprise–even in the ivory covered walls of the university. The days of “publish or perish” are over. The current mantra is patent or perish.

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