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July 14, 2010


Kevin, I marvel at your patience to wade through muck like Ms. Washington's and your ability to do so without vomiting. Are there statistics on how much she's made from her publications?

Totally agree with your assesment and posted a comment, which hopefully will be approved.

Although I am somewhat left of center politically, I find the left wing’s attack on gene patents to be outrageous. The author of the article is more than "naïve." She, and the rest of the anti-gene patent cabal, simply choose to ignore the facts to advance their political agenda. The loony left has orchestrated a propaganda attack on gene patents that would have made Stalin jealous. I hope that we patent professionals and the biotechnology industry can counter it.

I was a graduate student before Bayh-Dole, when most academics had little choice but to do basic research. I then worked in the pharmaceutical industry, when they did more basic research. I lived near Princeton when Bell Labs changed names and missions. My experience as a patent attorney suggests that many universities aren't particularly good at commercializing technology.

I think it would be great for America if we did more basic research. Undoing Bayh-Dole isn't practical, but who's going to do the basic research, if not universities? How do we incentivize basic research?

Patent attorneys have a political blind spot. We think that reasoned argument and presentation of factual evidence will carry the day. That isn't true even in the court room - more than we'd like to admit, but we science folks do continue to place faith in the enlightenment. This lady's arguments are at the core of the left wing political canon (Government and non-profit institutions will provide, private industry will take). As in all matters political, think religion and faith. The only way to convert someone holding faith-based beliefs is by epiphany, and these are rarely the result of reason. You've done a first class job trying, though!


Once again, nice article on the disingenuous "patents on life forms, isolated genetic material, etc." should be banned left wing. Ms. Washington evidences the ultimate in "Kool-Aid" drinking and in trying to get the general public to come to her "Kool-Aid" drinking fountain. Sorry, I won't ever drink at her fountain, and hopefully the general public won't either.

BTW, Ms. Washington's view about university reseach being ready for marketing is absolute rubbish. I was at the AUTM Central Region meeting in Memphis this week, and as any tech transfer officer at a university will tell you it's rare that academic researchers provide a "turn key" technology. It usually takes a corporate partner to get that technology commercialized. I've go nothing against academic research which often provides signficant knowlege, along with technologies having great commericalization opportunity. Instead, I'm pointing out the reality of who usually takes these "raw" technologies to market.

To Max Hensley,

Great comment! This is exactly the core of the left wing's attack and how to respond to it. Logic makes people think, but emotion makes them act. We need to make the argument for gene patents in a more emotional way that emphasizes such things as medical advances/cures and jobs. And we need to stop being so circumspect in countering their arguments. We need to call them what they are -- lies and garbage.

Kevin -

Well stated


While I agree with most of you, the challenge is to develop a strategy to counter these types of irresponsible claims. It is difficult because the issues are complex, but some of what I have tried to do includes the following:

1. don't challenge the morality issue; you generally cannot change these types of beliefs

2. but do challenge the logic - for example, just because the NHS in Britain or an insurance company in the US won't pay for a test doesn't mean the test is too expensive. It means the payor has decided it can wait until the cost of the test goes down when the patent expires, and the patients denied the test be damned - the bottom line is more important

3. it is also good to use actual data - such as the limited numbers of patents before versus the flood after Bayh-Dole - to make the point that the amount of basic research isn't what's different (after all, President Nixon started the "War on Cancer" in 1971 with increased funding for the NIH and NCI), but that universities now have ways to prevent predation from private businesses (turning the anti-corporate argument on its head). Coupled with the fact that many of these predating companies were overseas, thus taking American jobs, there is a good argument that university patenting is good for society.

4. finally, it is good to paint the picture of what would happen if these inventions could not be protected. If the "anti" groups can be seen as anti-science, anti-progress, anti-better diagnostics and anti-treatment, it's hard to see how the public would prefer the "eventually" world their position would produce.

Thanks for the comments.


You points on how to combat are well-taken. We need to paint those like Ms. Washington for what they are: (1) demagogues who don't know what they're talking about; (2) don't have the facts/evidence to support their position; and (3) take positions that will actually doom us to poorer standard of living.

One other point I would make that is somewhat "emotional" as one commentor has suggested, but is also real and very factual: (4) making it more difficult for American biotech/pharma to grow/invest capital which means loss of (or failure to create) American JOBS. Even the politicians understand that message and was what I suggested need to be trumpeted loud and clear in addressing the misguided efforts of so-called "patent law reform," including the latest monstrosity called S.515. The JOBS message applies equally to allowing American biotech/pharma to protect their investment so it isn't simply copied by those outside the U.S. who won't expend the innovative effort and thus deprive us of JOBS. (Sorry for all the capitalization of that word, but its the one that gets most people's attention.)

Kev have you personally been responsible for chillin effectin on mah biotech industry? Be honest. We're all friends here, and if you have then its ok. Just go ahead and be up front about it.

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