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.