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.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and +glynmoody on Google+

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Comments on “USPTO Awards Patent To Disgraced Scientist For Fraudulent Work”

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22 Comments
That One Guy (profile) says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

“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.

DannyB (profile) says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

“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!

Lawrence D'Oliveiro says:

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?

zip says:

"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.

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