Wednesday, August 30, 2006

CIRM IP Group Changes Research Usage Exemption

The California stem cell agency's Task Force on Intellectual Property has revised requirements for sharing inventions developed as the result of grants to nonprofit research organizations.

California biomedical firms objected to the previous language. The latest version was hammered out a meeting of the Task Force following comments from its members and others.

The new language, which will be posted on the CIRM website as part of the administrative rules procedures, stipulates that grantees make CIRM-funded patented inventions "readily accessible on reasonable terms to other grantee organizations."

Some members of the Oversight Committee, in addition to the business groups, were concerned that the previous language (known as the Research Use Exemption - RUE) would remove incentives to market and distribute useful research tools.

Janet Lambert, director of government relations for Invitrogen of Carlsbad, Ca., flew out from Washington, D.C., to present her company's point of view. She and others, including John M. Simpson, stem cell director of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, worked out the compromise language in the rear of the room as the Task Force dealt with other issues.

Part of the backdrop for discussion for the language was "The WARF Problem." Repeatedly speakers said they did not want to emulate the example of the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, which holds key patents to embryonic stem cells. The foundation has been the subject of sharp criticism for failing to allow use of the patents more widely and less expensively.

CIRM President Zach Hall argued for wider distribution of CIRM-funded research. He said he did not want to see a situation where "we can't communicate with our (scientific) neighbors."

Members of the Task Force. Including Jeff Sheehy, also raised questions about how the previous language was arrived at and the process of involving "stakeholders" in discussions. Sheehy said he was "very uncomfortable" about a discussion process that would seem to favor some stakeholders over others.

Once the new language is officially published, that will trigger another 15-day comment period. You can see details of the administrative rules process here.

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