Basic Building Blocks Of Life Patented… But Wins A Nobel Prize

from the is-that-good-or-bad? dept

joseph franklin writes in to point out that this year’s Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to some researchers who helped uncover some of the basic building blocks of life, ribosomes. Figuring out how to model these was great, but Franklin’s concern is that not only did these researchers get a Nobel Prize for it, they got a patent as well:

The patent holders and licensees surely believe that these products will be life-saving, and profitable, and I hate to rain on the Nobel Prize parade. But should research so fundamental to life, such as the ribosome structure, be locked up for commercial gain — like Dynamite? Should a private institution, such as Yale, have the only say over how ribosomes may be developed into new biomedical technologies?

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Comments on “Basic Building Blocks Of Life Patented… But Wins A Nobel Prize”

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... says:

Bad Patent

FTA -> “Some of these patents, held by Yale in the name of the prize-winner Thomas Steitz and others, cover not only the process for determining the structure of the molecules, but also the computation used to design new antibiotics.”

I dont think they were given a patent on the molecular structure of the human ribosome. I hope that would not be allowed.

It is a bad patent because it covers process and computation. These activities should not be patentable. These processes have been occuring in nature for some time. What’s next – a patent on photosynthesis?

In addition, public funds were most likely used. This practice is questionalbe at best and should be stopped.

iNtrigued (profile) says:

Re: Bad Patent

Actually, its funny you bring up a patent on photosynthesis. Because we may not be far from there be some company who is going to do just that. There are already scientist trying to develop a way to mimic photosynthesis to power damn near everything. But you can bet your bottom dollar that once they find the way they will patent the HELL out of it!

Just a little FYI for the future.

Grimace (profile) says:


As you do in most things anti-patent, you run with the commentary found on other sites without further analysis. This is in complete contrast to your approach with any commentary you find that is pro-patent. In those situations, you delve into the argument and find the inconsistencies. Why the situational blind eye? If you were to read the patents mentioned, you would find they are directed to crystals of ribosomes, ways of making those crystals, and methods of using molecular models derived from those crystals in drug discovery. Hardly a patent on ribosomes themselves, which do not exist as crystals but for human intervention.

Anonymous Coward says:


One should never appeal to reason for those inclined to cast aspersions and ridicule without having taken even a modicum of time to gather salient and relevant information.

To do so is to interfere with a “conversation” by interjecting reality into the conversation. How rude to even suggest this should be done in the interest of accuracy.

ChurchHatesTucker (profile) says:


” If you were to read the patents mentioned, you would find they are directed to crystals of ribosomes, ways of making those crystals, and methods of using molecular models derived from those crystals in drug discovery. Hardly a patent on ribosomes themselves, which do not exist as crystals but for human intervention.”

Which is the way we can examine them. It’s like patenting the telescope.

Meh, you probably think that’s reasonable. Let’s try this: How much public (i.e., my) money found its way to this project. I want a piece of that shit.

Whisk33 says:


“Hardly a patent on ribosomes themselves”

“Should… [Yale] …have the only say over how ribosomes may be developed into new biomedical technologies?”

While the techdirt portion maybe imply a patent on ribosomes, the excerpt clearly states it is how they are developed that was patented.

I think the point still remains at what cost (to the world/public/others) does the patent allow Yale to capitalize on the marketing of ribosomes? Will it hinder research? Will it prevent studies? Will it prevent life saving procedures? And what will it allow? Profits? and then ultimately would this research not have been done if patents weren’t there?

Isaac the K (profile) says:

Re: alfred would approve

I’m pretty darn sure that the was point of capitalizing the word “dynamite” – The author of the comment was aware of the irony of criticizing a Nobel prize given to a patented discovery when tnt was itself patented by Nobel.

What he laments is the concept of something so integral to life itself receiving a patent, while dynamite, while useful, isn’t “life giving.”

Anyone interested in setting up a patent for discovery of a simple proccess for the manufacture of DHMO?

RIAA Smoocher says:

My own patent...

I am going to patent the process of hiring an investigative service to track down people infringing on P2P networks who are downloading material and then give said information to companies who then file civil suits against said people.

AND, I’m patenting doing all that… ON THE INTERNET.

No reason I shouldn’t cash in on all the lawsuits.

In a future patent, I’ll also patent doing the same process to schools and colleges, as well as teh process of sending out cease and desist letters.

Anonymous Coward says:

One thing I have against the patent system is this.

People argue that without patents fewer people will invent because many inventors invent only for the money. Inventors that get patents and who initiate infringement lawsuits are likely to be intellectual property maximists. Now society would be much better off if these people invented and allowed anyone to freely benefit from these inventions/discoveries yet, as intellectual property maximists admit, they are self interested in their inventions. So why should I trust that their position to promote intellectual property isn’t self interested as well? If they invent solely for self interested reasons why should I trust that their efforts to create more restrictive intellectual property laws aren’t motivated by selfish desire and not by a desire to help society? and if their motives to promote stricter intellectual property laws are selfish why should I trust them when they alleged that intellectual property is good for society?

One might argue, “well, intellectual property helps you recover cost.” If this was true and their motives to promote intellectual property are really for the benefit of society then they should advocate a system whereby those who get patents must publicly justify their costs (ie: on some website) with receipts and evidence and independent auditors audit them. For society to know the extent that intellectual property covers costs would be beneficial to society because then it helps people decide how restrictive intellectual property laws should be to optimize innovation (ie: how long patents should last).

One may argue that no one would invent if they have to invade their privacy. But

A: When they ask the government for monopolies proof of justification becomes everyone’s business.

B: If they value privacy and profits over helping society then why should we trust that their pro intellectual property position is motivated to promote society.

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