University researchers and patent infringements

Academic researchers have regularly ignored patents on key technologies as a strategy to maneuver around patent thickets and freedom-to-operate issues, but they may be more at risk than they realize, write Amy Yancey and C Neal Stewart, Jr of the Department of Plant Sciences at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, in the current issue of Nature Biotechnology (25, 1225-1228; 2007). From their article:

“The original proponents of patent protection could not have foreseen a world in which the very building blocks of life could be patented or farmers could be prevented from saving seeds from year to year, but our courts, regulators and political leaders are certainly aware of it now. Despite this fact, public policy solutions have been slow in materializing, and the problems may get worse before they improve. It may prove that no silver bullet exists, but with open-source solutions, pressure from open-science advocates like Richard Jefferson and open licensing from universities, anticommons effects can hopefully be avoided or minimized. In the interim, it seems prudent to conduct research on awareness of FTO issues among public university researchers, increase empirical evidence of the innovation-blocking effects of anticommons and patent thickets, evaluate the effectiveness of those organizations seeking to increase collaboration amount public institutions and create new workarounds.”

For further advice, additional reading and references, read the full article at Nature Biotechnology’s website.


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