USPTO Awards Patent To Disgraced Scientist For Fraudulent Work

from the I-don't-even dept

Here on Techdirt, we're pretty inured to the excesses of the patent system. But just when you think you've seen everything and plumbed the deepest depths of ridiculousness, along comes something like this:

Korean researcher Hwang Woo-suk electrified the science world 10 years ago with his claim that he had created the world's first cloned human embryos and had extracted stem cells from them. But the work was later found to be fraudulent, and Dr. Hwang was fired from his university and convicted of crimes.

Despite all that, Dr. Hwang has just been awarded an American patent covering the disputed work, leaving some scientists dumbfounded and providing fodder to critics who say the Patent Office is too lax.
But it would be too easy to mock the USPTO for explaining that:
the system operates on an honor code and that patent examiners cannot independently verify claims.
Instead, I'd like to draw attention to this revealing comment from Kevin E. Noonan, a biotechnology patent lawyer, as quoted in the New York Times story:
"If it's bad, it's not going to be worth very much," Mr. Noonan said. "Who is going to sue on this patent?"
The answer, of course, is many people would -- specifically, patent trolls, who have no problems taking a worthless patent and using the mere threat of litigation to squeeze money out of companies just to get them to go away. That, and patents being granted on discredited ideas, as here, are just some of the many problems that the USPTO needs urgently to address.

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Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    That One Guy (profile), Feb 19th, 2014 @ 9:26am

    I've got it!

    I'll just file for a patent on filing for patents with a computer, then when it goes through(which it will, because of the magic words 'with a computer'), I'll turn around and shake dow- I mean send generous settlement offers to people filing for such insane patents.

    I'll make millions, and/or at least slow down the deluge of stupidity coming out of the patent office, it's a win-win situation.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    icon
    silverscarcat (profile), Feb 19th, 2014 @ 9:33am

    Re: I've got it!

    *Steals idea and runs to the Patent office*

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    icon
    Violynne (profile), Feb 19th, 2014 @ 9:44am

    "USPTO Awards Patent To Disgraced Scientist For Fraudulent Work"

    *pulls out non-patented magic wand (curses)

    "USTPO Awards Patent To Everyone For Fraudulent Claims Against Work"

    I think it's got a bit more of a nice ring to it, don't you think?

    Uh oh. Grammar police just arrived. See ya.

     

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  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 19th, 2014 @ 11:09am

    "If it's bad, it's not going to be worth very much," Mr. Noonan said. "Who is going to sue on this patent?"

    The person with the patent sues the person who ACTUALLY is able to pull it off.

    Come up with some ridiculous patent in the hopes that someone is able to create it. Wait until the world uses/needs it and then sue everyone.

     

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  5.  
    icon
    That One Guy (profile), Feb 19th, 2014 @ 11:14am

    Re: Re: I've got it!

    Curse you first to file rule!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 19th, 2014 @ 11:36am

    for the USPTO to stop doing things like this, to clean up it's act, it would first have to admit, if only to itself that it is a fucking disgrace that needs to be closed down, then replaced with a true Patent Office that did a proper job! cant see that happening any time soon!

     

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  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 19th, 2014 @ 11:44am

    Seems to me that it is working just fine.

    /s

     

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  8.  
    identicon
    Mark Wing, Feb 19th, 2014 @ 11:45am

    Shell corporations should not be allowed to sue anyone, or at least they should be confined just to being allowed to sue other shell corporations. Being sued by a throw-together shell company with no assets and nothing to lose does not and will never have anything to do with justice.

     

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  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 19th, 2014 @ 11:52am

    Re: Re: Re: I've got it!

    You could still get it with "on the Internet."

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    identicon
    Zem, Feb 19th, 2014 @ 12:03pm

    Biggest mistake of his life

    This man's hubris will bring on his own downfall. How long until North Korean agents kidnap him in order to clone their glorious leader?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 19th, 2014 @ 12:17pm

    Patent is invalid

    Per various legal sources, "The disclosure (patent specification) must enable one skilled in the art to put the invention into practice." If the inventor's work was fraudulent, the patent would certainly be ruled invalid if brought to suit. Any troll will have to step very carefully here.

     

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  12.  
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    DannyB (profile), Feb 19th, 2014 @ 1:44pm

    Improved USPTO scrutiny

    In order to give patents more scrutiny, the USPTO is proud to announce that it will be making changes to its patent application review process.

    Whereas presently, patent applications are thrown into a room full of kittens with PATENT GRANTED stamps affixed to their feet; in the future the kittens will no longer be blindfolded in order to afford greater scrutiny to patent applications.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 19th, 2014 @ 1:45pm

    Re: Patent is invalid

    But most trolls don't *want* to bring the patent to suit... They just threaten to do so unless you give them a license fee that is small relative to the cost of fighting them in court. So, for a troll, an indefensible-in-court patent is basically as good as a defensible-in-court patent.

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 19th, 2014 @ 2:01pm

    Re:

    Not to mention that invalidating a patent in court is expensive and an extremely hard burden to lift.

    Mr. Noonan doesn't seem to recognize the mere threat of litigation as an independent value. And if everything was functioning according to the textbook patent system he would be completely correct.

     

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  15.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 19th, 2014 @ 2:35pm

    "the system operates on an honor code and that patent examiners cannot independently verify claims."

    Patents grant someone an exclusive right. Put a little more correctly they remove a normal right from the rest of us. Now I find out all you have to do is claim you have "honor" to take away my rights?!

    Wow, America is doing a great job protecting the rights of its citizens!

     

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  16.  
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    Beta (profile), Feb 19th, 2014 @ 2:59pm

    kick the cat

    "Very clever, Dr. Hwang, but which of us are you going to sue? Remember, if you do find a way to tell us apart, that will be proof that your technique is flawed!"

     

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  17.  
    identicon
    Anonymous, Feb 19th, 2014 @ 4:10pm

    Gosh, a scientist committing fraud? Say it ain't so! Don't tell the people on this site who place their faith in science and scientists!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    identicon
    Srihari Yamanoor, Feb 19th, 2014 @ 6:27pm

    Apple got a patent for a box with rounded corners, but let us all rail on the Korean guy...

     

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  19.  
    identicon
    Lawrence D'Oliveiro, Feb 19th, 2014 @ 7:16pm

    Can You Patent An Idea?

    Someone claiming to be a lawyer once told me that you can’t just patent an idea, it has to be “reduced to practice”. As far as I can tell, that doesn’t actually mean you have to demonstrate it actually working, you just have to describe it in sufficiently technical-sounding and flowery* legal terms that it sounds like it might work.

    *Insofar as legal terms can be described as “flowery”. Perhaps “fungidly”** might be more appropriate.
    **What do you mean that’s not a word?

     

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  20.  
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    Josh (profile), Feb 19th, 2014 @ 8:42pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: I've got it!

    I've got dibs on "while using an ink based writing utensil in conjunction with a thin flat inscription medium".

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
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    nasch (profile), Feb 19th, 2014 @ 10:28pm

    Patent examiners

    the system operates on an honor code and that patent examiners cannot independently verify claims.

    So what is the point of even having examiners? That is not a rhetorical question. Do they add any value other than slowing down the process, and thus discouraging the filing of applications somewhat?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    identicon
    zip, Feb 20th, 2014 @ 12:14am

    "preloaded" patents

    But aren't patents routinely filed for things that have not actually been done yet? For instance, if tomorrow a company discovered the secret to, let's say, harness the energy of nuclear fusion, would it not have to deal with a myriad of previous patents, despite being the first one to actually discover a viable method of achieving fusion?

    I thought that was the whole idea behind patent trolling -- file patents relating to everything you can think of that might conceivably, some day in the future, be discovered, developed, or commercialized ... and then patiently wait years for these things to happen so you can then step in and assert your claim.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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