Friday, November 03, 2006

The Scientist Magazine: WARF Patents Over-Reaching

The prestigious magazine, The Scientist, has taken on WARF and its stem cell ownership claims in two pieces that denounce the WARF patents as absurd and harmful to scientific research.

Richard Gallagher, editor of the magazine, and Glenn McGee , director of the Alden March Bioethics Institute in New York state, wrote an editorial and column, respectively, on the subject.

Gallagher said:
"Patents are a good thing. In general, they promote progress by encouraging research and development with incentives. But sometimes, they over-reach, and they impede progress rather than help it. This is one of those cases. The WARF patents point up the sometimes uncomfortable conflict between intellectual property rights and scientific freedom that many of our readers often feel as they find their way in the funding environment of the 21st century."
McGee wrote:
"So can someone own the cells that make up what is important about a human embryo? And if so, do we have to pay them every time we make our own embryonic cells, every time we make a medicine or other innovation from embryonic cells, and even when we use the cells to teach?

"Basically, if it looks like an embryonic cell, you'd better pay up. And if you try to make something out of your own embryo - yes, the one you made with your own body, from your own body - well, hope you have good lawyers."
He continued:
"In one among many of its attempts to avoid what could and should be a reversal of these patents stemming from the decision to review them, Wisconsin's Governor Jim Doyle has announced that companies who fund work at universities and nonprofits in that state will not have to pay any licensing fees. Previous attempts to ameliorate the problem have been more aggressive: offering to provide the cell lines at lower prices or to cross-license in a friendly way, for example. It wasn't enough for Californians, and now it appears it won't be enough to stop right-thinking people everywhere from filing suit, on moral grounds if nothing else.

"The protection of patents is supposed to extend to 'things under the sun made by man.' There has yet to be a serious challenge to the absurdity of patents on disease genes, and the even more absurd notion that the ability to find, to discover, constitutive parts of an embryo means that you own them."

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