Microsoft The Latest To Try To Patent An Entire Bio Industry

from the just-what-Jefferson-intended dept

Microsoft's Bill Gates once famously pointed out that if software patents had been used back in the early days of Microsoft, the personal computer revolution almost certainly never would have occurred. But, over the last few years, Microsoft has become quite aggressive in the patent space, not just working hard to acquire as many patents as possible, but also waving them around at times and threatening other companies with them. Now, some will point out that, in the software space at least, many feel the need to stockpile patents, just for the sake of having something to use to threaten those who threaten you with patent infringement (the nuclear stockpiling theory).

However, now it seems that Microsoft may be trying to stockpile outside of its core industries, and it has some folks up in arms. A bunch of folks sent in the story about how Microsoft is trying to patent clustering phylogenetics methods (here's the application) that supposedly are quite common in the evolutionary biology industry. Of course, it's just an application -- so one would hope that, if it's so widely used, that the examiner will knock it out with plenty of prior art. But, the Patent Office isn't always known for doing such a good job on these sorts of things. And just the fact that such a patent is being attempted should be troubling enough.


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  •  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 24th, 2009 @ 9:33pm

    It's really sad how intellectual property completely stops innovation. Computers innovated because of a lack of intellectual property. Pharmaceuticals weren't innovating much (and still aren't) because intellectual property is in the way. Now if electronics get the patents that pharmaceuticals have one can expect the innovation to advance at the slow rate that pharmaceuticals are advancing. It's really sad to see an intellectual property system and laws ruin innovation and advancement.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Aug 24th, 2009 @ 9:40pm

      Re:

      But I suppose Microsoft and software want to turn into the evil entities that pharmaceutical corporations have turned into. You can't get rid of them by trying to boycott them because they have patents so you can't replace them and people may need them to function (ie: people are addicted to pharmaceuticals and some patients may need a drug to live), you can't get the government to do anything because they have the power to control the government; so you are just stuck having to pay high prices for expensive garbage and allowing them to get away with all sorts of atrocities (ie: Bayer knowingly selling aids tainted blood) without any consequences whatsoever. There is simply nothing the people will do about it, it's going to happen whether we like it or not. People are going to be just as apathetic when it comes to standing up against corporations like Microsoft as they are when it comes to standing up against pharmaceutical corporations and so tech companies will end up turning into the criminals that pharmaceutical corporations have turned into and they will pretty much get away with it.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Aug 25th, 2009 @ 6:05am

      Re:

      Your statements posit an absolute impossibility. You claim that "...intellectual property completely stops innovation."

      Question: How can that possibly be true?

      Let us take your example of the pharmaceutical industry. You claim that pharmaceuticals are not innovating much (which seems to belie your earlier statement that "...intellectual property completely stops innovation;"). Yet, pharmaceutical patents have an effective life of about 14 years. So, after 14 years the drug described by the patent is available for innovation.

      In fact, Teva and several other generic manufacturers make it their business to "innovate" drugs on which patents have expired. The focus of Teva is not invention, they leave that to others, but producing low-cost generic drugs. You could say that Teva's existence is enabled by the creation of patented drugs.

      As for your other statement, it is beyond silly. Electronics have gotten patents since there were electronics. However, invention and innovation in electronics continues at an exponential rate, as pointed out by an article on this web site not long ago. How could there be exponential invention and innovation in electronics if "...intellectual property completely stops innovation"?

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Aug 25th, 2009 @ 7:31am

        Re: Re:

        Did you really read that before you posted it?

        "You claim that pharmaceuticals are not innovating much (which seems to belie your earlier statement that '...intellectual property completely stops innovation;'"

        You're basically arguing that innovating just a little is completely incomparable to not innovating at all, when the difference between them in inherently small.


        "You could say that Teva's existence is enabled by the creation of patented drugs."

        No, Teva's existence would be enabled by the creation of drugs--whether the drugs are patented or not is completely beside the point.

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Aug 25th, 2009 @ 8:11am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Oh please. Either "intellectual property completely stops innovation" or it slows innovation. It cannot do both, and no, they are not comparable. Slow and stop are two different modes. If you do not think so, try rolling slowly through a red light in making a right turn in front of a policeman versus stopping before turning right. The former is a tertiary violation. The latter is the law.

          No, Teva's existence would be enabled by the creation of drugs--whether the drugs are patented or not is completely beside the point.

          I apologize. I missed some words.

          Many drugs owe their existence to patents. The nominal rate of return without patents would have reduced the likelihood that those drugs would have been invented. Teva has capitalized on the existence of drugs that were enabled by patents by producing those drugs cost-effectively after the patents expired.

          While Teva might have existed (a debateable point without the existence of patents) without patented drugs, their ability to become the low-cost producer of formerly patented drugs has led to Teva becoming the largest generic manufacturer in the world, as well as one of the largest pharmaceutical manufacturers in the world.

           

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            kirillian (profile), Aug 25th, 2009 @ 10:25am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            So...what you mean is that Teva's existence owes nothing whatsoever to copyright as far as we know, but it probably owes its size as the world's largest manufacturer to the established system?

             

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              Anonymous Coward, Aug 25th, 2009 @ 10:30am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              I was unaware that Teva is the "world's largest manufacturer" of generic pharmaceuticals. However, you statement seems correct. Teva would likely exist without the existence of patents, but given that Teva has made its name by producing low-cost versions of formerly patented drugs, and given that Teva has an extremely small R&D group, it seems high probable that Teva owes a good chunk of its size and success on the drugs that were initially enabled by patents.

              As for copyright, that has nothing to do with Teva.

               

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            Anonymous Coward, Aug 25th, 2009 @ 10:35am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            According to their Wikipedia entry, Teva is the world's largest generic drug manufacturer, and the 19th largest pharmaceutical company in the world.

             

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 25th, 2009 @ 12:25am

    Bill Gates is an Uber-Skank

     

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    Profit Friendly Guy, Aug 25th, 2009 @ 4:03am

    Patents

    The main flaw about patents is that patents alone do NOT curb progress. THey exist to protect intelectual property. Nobody is prohibited to use the knowledge and enhance horizons and finding new things, what is really at stake is GREED!
    Everybody can use the patented knowledge to develop a product and PAY for its use. What is at stake is that NOBODY want to SHARE the profits!
    I am an example of a simple average Joe that used a Microsoft patent developed a solution, hired a DIME A DOZEN lawyer to talk to their MILLIONS A YEAR ones got my one time only fee paycheck and went home happy.
    Pharmaceuticals are a totaly different ball game you crash a computer no prbblem, crash a mice test and back to drawing board and another 10,000 mices will endure tests, not to mention CHINESE experimenting with real people.
    Come on guys patent is OK GREED and unautorized use is NOT!

     

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      ..., Aug 25th, 2009 @ 5:16am

      Re: Patents

      "Everybody can use the patented knowledge to develop a product and PAY for its use."

      Excuse me, but you can not patent knowledge.

      In addition, software should not be patentable and it wasn't for a long time. Software is protected under copyright.

       

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      Rickard, Aug 27th, 2009 @ 4:11am

      Re: Patents

      Read on a bit better, patents were created to inventors would dare to document their inventions so they would not follow them into the grave that happened several times in the 1800's. Hence the long-term patents.
      Compare that to how it is used today!

      /Rickard

       

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    The Truth Is Out There, Aug 25th, 2009 @ 6:09am

    First non-final rejection...

    The USPTO sent a first non-final rejection on August 4, 2009. Claims 5 and 6 are allowed. All other claims have been rejected. The rejection is 14 pages long.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 25th, 2009 @ 6:18am

    Thank goodness Microsoft is getting out of the software business. This holds promise and will do a lot of good for the country.

     

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    Shekhar saxena, Aug 25th, 2009 @ 9:28am

    "You could say that Teva's existence is enabled by the creation of patented drugs."

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 25th, 2009 @ 5:42pm

    You know what, I can't say I entirely blame microsoft for abusing the patent system, everyone else does it ( http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20090811/2330285852.shtml ). I'm not saying it's right or that it justifies what Microsoft is doing but the fact is that if everyone else does it it makes it more understandable (though not any more justified of course).

     

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    Bettawrekonize, Aug 25th, 2009 @ 7:54pm

    I think 20 year patents are entirely too long, I mean, how much does the future amount generated from a patent 20 years from now contribute to the present value of the patent compare to the present value of the money you will currently spend for R&D on the product that you have patented? It just doesn't seem like the money generated for a patent twenty years from now will give you much incentive to add a lot of R&D dollars into a product you are developing now being that those dollars are worth a lot more now than the present value of that future amount generated by the patent.

    But if you're a big corporation why not lobby for the patents you apply for to last 100 years, what harm does it do to you? and there is incentive for patents that you currently do have not to expire any time soon no matter how old the patent is being that you maybe generating revenue on the patent now meaning it contributes more to your current present value (even if the patent is 100 years old, the current money you generate from it now contributes largely to the present value). This explains why corporations always try to lobby for intellectual property extensions.

    Also, one has to realize that in twenty years from now many of the corporation's executives and members and employees (ie: CEO, COO, CFO, etc...) would probably be either retired or working for another corporation and many of the stock holders are going to be different people (ie: stocks are bought and sold every day). Sure some current stockholders still may have stock in the corporation in the future (but again, what's the present value of the future amount of a patent twenty years from now to an investor vs the money he could get now by simply having less money put into current R&D. Doesn't seem there is much incentive to add that much more money into R&D now being that the present value to an investor of that money is worth more than the future amount generated by the patent twenty years from now) but the corporation may have many new stockholders and many of the old stockholders may not even be with the corporation by then. Many many things could also happen in twenty years, the invention could be rendered obsolete by newer technology even, the economic conditions or some other changes (ie: political) might make the patent twenty years from now irrelevant, meaning that some investors and executives probably aren't even really thinking twenty years down the line in terms of that patent right now, they're thinking more of how they can make a fast buck with the patents they have now. I mean how often does the average American change jobs even, how many years? Many things would change in twenty years rendering the revenue generated from the patent twenty years from now irrelevant to many of the current investors and corporate employees and executives. and this is ESPECIALLY true for copyright which lasts much longer than 20 years even.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Aug 25th, 2009 @ 8:10pm

      Re:

      and when I say the present value of the future amount 20 years from now I mean the future amount on the twentieth year. Meaning the money generated in that year (alone) is not going to give you much additional incentive at all to invest a lot more money into R&D presently, so there really is little reason for patents to last that long.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 28th, 2009 @ 8:43am

    Isnt Star Trek on somewhere?

    Isnt Star Trek on somewhere?

     

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    carlos fernandez, Aug 28th, 2009 @ 9:04am

    bill gate is not intelligent...

    bill gates ego has gone too far....catrina experience in the usa and other affected areas should be base on human cost, not economical, THE CUBAN GOVERNMENT uses a very effective method when it come to huracane and the value of human loss, and the saving of live stock we should do as they do. learn from others without puting money loss in front of everything!

     

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    Juan Carlos Freebird, Aug 28th, 2009 @ 10:50am

    Controlling Hurricanes

    I would like to address this matter, referencing an article printed on CNN website. The following is a small clip from that article:

    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    World renowned hurricane expert William Gray, who's been studying and predicting the storms for a half-century, also doubts whether the proposal would work.

    "The problem is the storms come up so rapidly," said Gray, a professor of atmospheric science at Colorado State University. "You only get two to three days warning. It's very difficult to bring up enough cold water in two to three days to have much effect."

    The idea itself isn't groundbreaking, according to Gray, who said it could only be feasible if the barges were put into place at the beginning of hurricane season with the idea that storms will come.

    "But you might do all that, and perhaps no storms would come. That's an economic problem," Gray said.

    Even if the technology does work, Gray said it won't completely halt a hurricane.

    "There is no way to stop it. The storm might weaken in the center, but the outer areas wouldn't be affected much."

    And flooding and storm surges are determined by these outer winds, Gray said.

    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    All that being said, and responding as a mere neophyte in the field of hurricanes, unlike the "world renowned hurricane expert, Dr. William Gray; I would like at this time, to address a couple errors I see in Dr. Gray's philosophy. First and foremost, nothing is "impossible", given inspiration, meditation and perspiration. He says, even if the technology were workable, there is No Way to stop the hurricanes from reforming and gaining strength. To this, again I say, you have defeated yourself without ever even getting in to the fray. When one says, it is impossible, or there is no way, or any number of other positively negative statements, immediately their spoke word places a barrier in the path of said technology, if only in his or her own mind. The more Renowned and Respected that person is, the more power his or her spoken word has, simply because more people who hear or read their positively negative statements, believe them, hence placing that same road block or log jam in that person's reality as well. That is why the spoken, written and musically sung WORD is the most powerful and creative force in the Universe. cg@

     

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    Affluenza, Aug 28th, 2009 @ 1:09pm

    Greed and Control of the Planet

    Does Bill feel he needs to control everything like the rest of those who claim their DIVINE RIGHT to own the Earth.

    Keep it up - and soon he and his cronies will own the air we breath.

    When will people wake up and see that the Constitution of the United States and the people who control our Government still follow the advice of Sun Tzu's, the Art of War fom 500 b.c All warfare is based on Deception.

    Keep the majority ignorant and fearful and he can bring this whole planet down.

    Wake up fellow humans. Let us join hands and restore this country as the beacon of hope for the whole planet.

    If we don't clean up the mess here in own country first, how can we expect the rest of the world to follow.

     

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    Mike Duffey, Aug 29th, 2009 @ 6:50pm

    Bill Gates and Huricanes

    Why is it that someone gets lucky by creating and marketing a mediocre operating system and business suite, robs the economic system, and then takes the proceeds to forward other bad ideas? Though Bill has the best of intentions I don’t think he is someone we should to listen to the extent we do. The notion of stopping tropical waves or more advanced systems is absurd. In addition, diverting weather systems from areas that may have suffered historic drought cycles doesn’t help sell the plan. Frankly people are responsible for mucking up too much of the world’s natural systems and we don’t need Bill Gates with his ill begotten cash causing a bigger mess. If anything Bill could spend some time on programs reducing the number of people on this planet.

     

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    Mike Duffey, Aug 29th, 2009 @ 6:55pm

    Bill Gates and Huricanes

    Why is it that someone gets lucky by creating and marketing a mediocre operating system and business suite, robs the economic system, and then takes the proceeds to forward other bad ideas? Though Bill has the best of intentions I don’t think he is someone we should to listen to the extent we do. The notion of stopping tropical waves or more advanced systems is absurd. In addition, diverting weather systems from areas that may have suffered historic drought cycles doesn’t help sell the plan. Frankly people are responsible for mucking up too much of the world’s natural systems and we don’t need Bill Gates with his ill begotten cash causing a bigger mess. If anything Bill could spend some time on programs reducing the number of people on this planet.

     

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    Cindy, Aug 30th, 2009 @ 5:06am

    Bill is right. We need to be able to control our environment

    Did anyone answer me why you couldn't use a laser from a plane
    and shoot it at the eye of the hurricane or tornado to disperse it's
    force? After Karina, there is no question that we have to control our
    environment. They probably all laughed at Christopher Columbus too.

     

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