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April 08, 2010



O joy, we have the return of the anti-gene patent Prince of Darkness. Doesn't Becerra have something better to do? Like encouraging business and job growth in America. Once he's destroyed the American biotech industry with this mis-guided bill, how does he plan retrain all those unemployed biotech folks? Becerra needs to go away and get a life.

Kevin, after reading your post, at first I thought there might be an IQ cap on representatives from Mr. Becerra's district. Then I found that he hails from the CA 31st district, which encompasses Hollywood. So while there may or may not be a maximum intelligence limitation in play, Mr. Becerra clearly had to meet a "divorced from reality" requirement to be elected. That helps explain his behavior, but doesn't make the behavior less dangerous. Do you know which committee this bill has to get out of before reaching the floor? Perhaps the committee chairman has both feet on the ground and would be receptive to arguments based in fact and reason rather than a bestselling work of fiction.

Does the bill incorrectly presume that all nucleotide sequences are naturally occurring? It seems that this bill's prohibition would extend to even non-naturally occurring nucleotide sequences. Is that right or did I miss something? In other words, if I conceive of a non-naturally occurring protein and also a nucleotide sequence that codes for that protein, then it appears this bill would try to prevent a claim to that nucleotide sequence. Though there would still be other issues to debate about gene patents, without limiting the bill to naturally occurring nucleotide sequences, this bill's prohibition appears to be way too broad.


Your point about this oxymoronic bill likely prohibiting the patenting of "synthetic" nucleotides is well-taken. Like the earlier version of this bill which misrepresented in its title what the bill covered, this bill too has extremely troubling language. Beceera needs to focus his attention on more important matters, like how we're going to pay for this mind-boggling health care package that he and his Democratic cronies just passed without imposing on America a tax-burden which will simply stiffle all economic growth, including in the biotech sector.


One suggestion I have which isn't the "all or nothing" approach of the Becerra bill is to provide the US government with something similar to the "march-in" provision that exists in Bayh-Dole. Such a provision should also provide the patent owner with the ability to secure "reasonable compensation" for what would likely amount to a "compulsory license" in the Court of Claims, similar to an action under 28 USC 1498. They could even put in a "research exemption" provision that would allow academia and other non-profits to do basic gene research without fear of a patent infringement suit. Anything is better than this oxymoronic Becerra bill. In other words, the basic gene research could proceed uninhibited, but the patent owner wouldn't be completely deprived of any ROI just because some take the extreme view that patenting gene technology is simply a "morality" issue.

Seems reasonable to me.

The Congressman has a BA in Economics from Stanford and a JD from the same institution. How strange that someone with this background would sponsor legislation like this...poorly written and economically devastating. Until you consider that the US Congress has evolved into a stupendous protection racket: "Nice business youse got dere. Sure would be sad if someone passed some legislation that hurts it." The Congressman is a senior member of Ways and Means, where this art is practiced with aplomb. Better, the racket will yield double dividends. The Democrats in the SF Bay Area (there are no Republicans) will have to be bought off to lean on this guy. What a great business state intervention is! There's pie for all the politicians.

What a moron! Making policy on the basis of a science fiction novel? The book was the worst piece of trash I ever tried to read. (I gave up when I got to the talking parrot that did math.) This guy isn’t qualified to be a dog catcher let alone a congressman.


I understand your sentiments, but I prefer to refer to Becerra bill itself as moronic. As noted above, the language is poorly drafted and would have an impact on the American biotech industry that would anything but positive.

The Becerra bill also continues to foster the sense of "entitlement" to whatever technology is developed, even when it costs significant money and time to develop that technology. That attitude is depressing innovation and economic growth in the private sector, especially for small businesses. At the moment, the only job growth we've got is in government (especially federal). Unless we want to follow the awful economically depressing path in Europe, we need to move towards initiatives that foster growth in the private sector (especially those fostering small business growth) and away from government. That includes avoiding "entitlement" initiatives like the Becerra bill which could kill American job growth in the biotech sector.


In theory, I agree with you. Your assessment of the Becerra bill is certainly more rational and analytical than mine. But I've been hearing the anti-patent propaganda for 30 years, and I'm sick of it. I and many members of the patent bar have been trying to explain the patent system to the anti-patent folks for many years and getting nowhere. Not only do they choose not to understand, they twist the facts and manipulate emotions. The Big Lie propagated by the ACLU in the AMP case finally put me over the edge. I think it is time for patent lawyers to speak out forcefully and directly against the propaganda of the anti-patent cabal.

By the way, try reading Crichton's book (Next) some day when your stomach is strong and your toleration of idiocy is high. Even then, I'd be surprised if you got through it.

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