New York Times – March 19, 2006:

• The Earth revolves around the Sun.

• The speed of light is a constant.

• Apples fall to earth because of gravity.

• Elevated blood sugar is linked to diabetes.

• Elevated uric acid is linked to gout.

• Elevated homocysteine is linked to heart disease.

• Elevated homocysteine is linked to B-12 deficiency, so doctors should test homocysteine levels to see whether the patient needs vitamins.

ACTUALLY, I can’t make that last statement. A corporation has patented that fact, and demands a royalty for its use. Anyone who makes the fact public and encourages doctors to test for the condition and treat it can be sued for royalty fees. Any doctor who reads a patient’s test results and even thinks of vitamin deficiency infringes the patent. A federal circuit court held that mere thinking violates the patent.



  1. jasontheodd says:

    This one is just too easy, humor requires challenge. This is just sad. If it’s true then the patent system now has the potential to kill people…….great.

  2. Mr. Fusion says:

    Elevated homocysteine is linked to B-12 deficiency, so doctors should test homocysteine levels to see whether the patient needs vitamins.

    ACTUALLY, I can’t make that last statement. A corporation has patented that fact, and demands a royalty for its use.

    Gee, since Metabolite, the company which “owns” this idea wants me to pay for it, maybe they would like to pay me because I have the condition. I didn’t ask for the condition and if is theirs, they can fix THEIR problem. Then we could move on to the outfit that owns the Diabetes gene. Then the Hepatitis C gene.

    These illnesses and genes existed long before any of these companies. So please, someone explain how anyone can own an existing thing.

  3. garym says:

    This actually works. Now, when someone’s loved one dies of a disease that doctors can’t research because someone is holding a patent on the correlation between the genetics and the condition, the family can sue the patent holder and the PATENT OFFICE to get the patent thrown out.

    Unfortunately, our society has devolved to the point where everything has to be settled with a law suit. Why not file suit to end law suits? This could just be the ticket.

    G

  4. gquaglia says:

    Just another reason why the US patent system is F’ed up and needs a major overhaul.

  5. Improbus says:

    Common Sense is now hard to find. *rolls eyes* Here’s an idea, make patents a subject to a public review. Duh.

  6. Alex says:

    The patent system is broken. It started with Amazon’s “One Click” button then algorythms, now this. Soon someone is going to patent breathing. The really scary part is that the people who would “fix” this problem are in congress. I shudder to thing what they would consider a fix.

  7. gquaglia says:

    “The really scary part is that the people who would “fix” this problem are in congress. I shudder to thing what they would consider a fix.”

    DMCA, Orin Hatches ill fated Induce Act, if this is any indication of Congressess wisdom, then we are all doomed!

  8. moss says:

    Alex is back to the core of this. It’s been decades since Congress offered anything more than pretence at representing any electorate. Government officialdom follows the lead dogs — lobbyists and “consultants” — who provide everything from largesse to campaign funds to post-government employment. It mostly used to be the Pentagon. But, the whole process worked so well it was just a matter of expanding the dedicated process.

    Neither party of flunkies cares about changing anything. I’d vote for conservative Libertarian candidates or candyass Greens — if I thought someone might stir things up enough to kick the con artists out onto the street.

    Relying on “election reform laws” is just taking the responsibility off the shoulders of American voters — btw. Then you get to drop the final decisions on such laws into whose laps? The same political hacks making decisions like the one in this article.

  9. Allen McDonald, El Galloviejo® says:

    In 1970, some thirty-six years ago, Alvin Toffler’s million copy selling book, Future Shock, was published.

    In his book, Toffler attempted to prove the corollary that time can not exist without change and that without change time has no meaning.

    Fourteen years before, in 1956, Frank Loesser wrote the song, ‘ Standing on the Corner ‘, iwhich contained the line, ‘ Brother, you can’t go to jail for what you’re thinking.’.

    Times, as Toffler defined, have changed, now you can.

    Allen McDonald, El Galloviejo®

  10. Lou says:

    Steve:
    “Lets face it, people such as Newton spent lots of time trying to figure out what gravity is. Does that mean Newton should have “owned” gravity and he should have gotten a cut for any process that used gravity?!”

    People knew what gravity was before hand (things fall). The maker of the catapult was bringing in the defense dollars long before.

    Now if a gun (or catapult) maker of the time, used Newton’s equations to design a way of accurately positioning the canon or gun, heck yeah, Newton deserved a cut. Not forever, but for a reasonable period of time (like was once in our constitution.

  11. Babaganoosh says:

    If Company X owns the patent on Hepititus C, how long before they can be sued by someone who’s infected for not coming up with a cure (or obstructing the development of one through licensing fees)?

  12. Mike says:

    There is a significant difference between creating something new and simply observing a thing that already exists. I’m not really sure how the later can be patentable.

  13. Don says:

    Sure, the old saw about invention vs. discovery. One is patentable the other should not be (assuming one can make the distinction).

  14. James says:

    Lou – “A person has a miscarriage because of (a preventable) congenital defect. Not wanting to see it happen to someone else, she spends all of her free time becoming an amateur scientist, who after 10 years, discovers a link between a protien found in a pregnant woman’s saliva, which would indicate the defect, which can be cured with a drug, in utero.

    A drug company see’s the research, changes the test to not infringe on any patent, and makes lots of money selling the test to expectant mothers.”

    Thats assuming she would have had the money for a patent anyway. First, the patent office “strongly reccomends” a patent attorny. And then theres filing fees and blah blah blah. Patents aren’t free… and not even cheap.

    The smart play would be to make a direct offer to a major company to sell the test and research rights for a flat sum. If they steal it from there she would have a much better case against them. And, it would probably be cheaper to give her say $5 million than to pay dozens of scientists to figure out how to reproduce it in a legal way. Not to mention that they can get started right away on sales if they just buy it, as opposed to months of research time trying to duplicate it. And then, it helps her out since she has no way of getting the test to market. The company has connections with hospitals and doctors, money for marketing, etc and she has… nothing.

    Infact, in the real world when a major company sees research that they want to market they generally aproach the researcher and make them an offer. It makes things go a lot smoother not having an angry scientist calling you, sending you subpoenas, and throwing bloodthirsty lawyers at you.

    But, if what you said DID happen. She could easily sue for $20 mil and get a trial by jury. Odds are large that the jury would side with her.

  15. Tallwookie says:

    queue the though police


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