Monday, March 10, 2008

Ohio's verdict on human memory

OHIO SUPREME COURT ON USEFULNESS OF HUMAN MEMORIES One of the key issue in 101 arguments is the nature of mental states - are they concrete, tangible and useful enough to be patentable, and/or used in patentable processes. A trade secret case in Ohio, Al Minor v. Martin, offers one perspective. One Robert Martin used to work for Al Minor & Associates, and before leaving to start his own firm, he memorized part of the Minor's client list, which he then used to solicit clients for his new firm. Minor sued for trade secret theft. Martin lost at the trial court level, and appealed, arguing that a memorized client list is not a trade secret. An appeals court confirmed the trial court, and thus up to the state Supreme Court. The Supreme Court agreed with the lower courts that a trade secret theft occurred, ruling that the law didn't specify how the information had to be stored. What's interesting, for the patent world, is the language of part of their ruling: The "determination of whether a client list constitutes a trade secret pursuant to [Section] 1333.61(D) does not depend on whether it has been memorized by a former employee. It is the information that is protected by the [statute], regardless of the manner, mode, or form in which it is stored - whether on paper, in a computer, in one's memory, or in any other medium." Restated in the patenting concept: It is the information that is the patentable as an article of manufacture, regardless of the manner, mode or form in which it is manufactured - whether on paper, in a computer, in one's memory, or in any other medium.

Biopiracy and Agnostic Judges

FIRST INCIDENT OF BIOPIRACY Viking Press has come out with a book "The Thief and the End of the World: Rubber, Power, and the Seeds of Empire", by Joe Jackson, about of Englishman Henry Wickham, who, during the Victorian era, explored the Amazon in search of rubber trees that he had heard about that produced a strong and durable rubber. Having found the trees, he smuggled thousands of the seeds back to England, thus launching a rubber financial boom in the UK (though Wickham himself never profited much financially). Other foodstuffs that have been pirated are turmeric, quinoa and Basmati rice. Regarding Basmati, in September 1997, a Texas company called RiceTec won a patent (U.S. Patent No. 5,663,484) on basmati rice lines and grains. The patent secures lines of basmati and basmati-like rice and ways of analyzing that rice. RiceTec, owned by Prince Hans-Adam of Liechtenstein, faced international outrage over allegations of biopiracy. Both voluntarily and due to review decisions by the United States Patent Office, RiceTec has lost most of the claims of the patent, including, most importantly, the right to call their rice lines "basmati." This was a significant victory for India, whose farmers faced enormous economic losses that would have been caused by the patent.

In patent law, one common misunderstanding is that pharmaceutical companies patent the plants they collect. Consider also that it is impossible to patent naturally occurring organisms. However, patents may be taken out on specific chemicals isolated or developed from plants, often in combination with a stated and researched use of those chemicals. Generally the existence, structure and synthesis of those compounds is not a part of the indigenous medical knowledge that led researchers to analyze the plant in the first place. As a result, even if the indigenous medical knowledge is taken as prior art, that knowledge does not by itself make the active chemical compound "obvious," which is the standard applied under patent law.

In the United States, patent law can be used to protect "isolated and purified" compounds. In 1873, Louis Pasteur patented a "yeast" which was "free from disease" (US Patent No. 141,072). Patents covering biological inventions have been treated similarly. In the 1980, the case of Diamond v. Chakrabarty, the Supreme Court upheld a patent on a bacterium that had been genetically modified to consume petroleum, reasoning that U.S. law permits patents on "anything under the sun that is made by man." The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has observed that "a patent on a gene covers the isolated and purified gene but does not cover the gene as it occurs in nature".

Also possible under U.S. law is to patent a cultivar, a new variety of an existing organism. The patent on the Enola bean is an example of this sort of patent. The intellectual property laws of the US also recognize plant breeders' rights under the Plant Variety Protection Act, 7 U.S.C. §§ 2321-2582.

AMERICANS MIGHT NEED AN AGNOSTIC SUPREME COURT JUDGE Since the Supreme Court is also representative of American thought, it appears as having too many men, and too many white people (and thus too many white men). A recent Pew religious survey of America found that 16% of Americans are not religious. They are agnostic, atheist. That means one out of six Americans, and slowly rising. Since there are nine Supreme Court judges, that might call for one Justice being not religious. Food for thought, or for an AM radio talk show.

Dude lies before Congress on telework

Last Feb. 29 Jon Dudas lied before Berman's Congressional committee. On Wednesday, Jon Dudas spoke before Berman's Congressional committee with regards to patent quality, at a hearing on patent examination operations at the PTO. Some of his testimony included lies about patent quality. Dudas do so because he knows that Berman and others really don't care enough about patent quality to ask any serious questions to expose Dudas' lies. Dudas, as a former Congressional aide, knows that Congressional aides such as Berman's are not competent in patent examination workflow logistics to know how to prepare challenging questions for Dudas. He claimed that USPTO IMPLEMENTED NEARLY FULL-TIME TELEWORKING FOR PATENT EXAMINERS - WENT FROM ZERO TO MORE THAN A THOUSAND PATENT EXAMINERS WORKING NEARLY FULL-TIME FROM HOME This perversely undermines the already compromised patent quality. My first act as PTO Director will be to rebuild PTO libaries of prior art. Oh wait, illogistically difficult to use these libraries from homework. Look folks, if this was really practical, I would be teleworking in Miami. But I don't, since they don't have the university libraries of the Boston and San Francisco areas. Also, telework can be an invitation to Chinese spies to get access to many technological secrets much more easily than they can by infiltrating U.S. government agencies directly. The FBI just arrested a few spies trying to do that at the Defense Department. Thanks for the thought: Uncommon