Patents In Bioinformatics
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11.7 years ago

I would like to understand the general perspective of peers involved in bioinformatics research about the opportunities and pitfalls in patenting bioinformatics related "concepts", "methods" or "software techniques" as "software patents" or related patents to retain the intellectual property of their work (For example, a set of bioinformatics patents are given in this article) . I know about software patents and patents based on computational or informatics methods are common in computer science or informatics. Please share your experiences if you have a bioinformatics patent or contributed to a patent. Please share the link if your patents are available online.

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11.7 years ago
Andrew Su 4.9k

Even in my pharmaceutical environment (or perhaps because of it), intellectual property around algorithms is not particularly emphasized. I've filed one patent application, but honestly I don't think we'd bother if we did the work today. And now that I think about it, I don't even think I've listed in on my CV. Anyway that about sums up my thoughts on the subject...

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11.7 years ago

My two cents: while I was working at Integragen, my boss wrote a patent for a piece of software I created:

see http://www.google.com/patents/about?id=37CAAAAAEBAJ&dq=CloneTrek

The invention relates to methods and compositions for producing biochips as well as to the use of these biochips in diverse fields, from functional genomics to diagnosis, for example, particularly in research or in the medical field...

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Pierre, Thanks for this. Looking forward for others to share their thoughts.

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11.5 years ago

In my experience, the tendency is to patent the discoveries made using the algorithm/software instead of the algorithm itself. I suspect the reason may be that I am in Europe, where it is very difficult to get a patent on an algorithm (because "software" itself is not patentable as far as I understand).

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There is a quite good Wikipedia article on the topic of software patents under the European Patent Convention: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Software_patents_under_the_European_Patent_Convention

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Thanks for sharing your thougts Lars. I am surprised to note that it is very hard to patent algorithm/software in Europe.

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11.4 years ago
apfejes ▴ 160

I received my first official patent certificate last week, and was invited to comment here on my perspective on patents. However, my opinion isn't something I felt could be compressed into a simple comment, so I wrote it up on my blog:

http://blogs.nature.com/fejes/2010/08/my_thoughts_on_patents.html

However,for those who aren't interested in reading the article: software patents are generally not a good thing, but are required to operate in the current IP climate, particularly if you have investors who always want you to protect your operating space. As long as patents can be used "offensively" by your competition, you have no choice but to collect your own set to use defensively.

As for the merit of patents: A patent is a monopoly which is granted to someone to help them recoup their investment in a particular technology and an incentive for the inventor to disclose it. (ie. incentive to not go the trade secret route.) However, I feel that patents are only worth granting if the initial invention itself was the product of significant investment or hard work. (eg, getting FDA approval for a drug can cost billions of dollars.) When patents are given out for trivial things (eg. a new way to shop online), then you're providing a monopoly to someone for disclosing something of little value, which stifles innovation instead of fostering it.

Given the current IP system in the United States, I can't fault companies for investing in patents, software or otherwise. However, If I were an U.S. Citizen, I'd certainly be lobbying for Patent reform.

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Fejes, Thanks for the brief answer and link to you post.

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11.4 years ago

I have experience in both the US corporate and government settings, but, of course, my musings cannot be generalized. I have found that it is best to talk to your patent attorney or liaison up front. Ask if this is worth submission of an invention disclosure (ID) and, if so, how seriously that office will go after the full application. My division within the government seems to have little to no clue of the value of patenting bioinformatics algorithms - my application for an ID went nowhere. This could be an example that echos Lars comment. And in that vein my experience at a corporation was certainly more focused on discoveries over tools and methods.

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Thanks for sharing your thoughts Larry.

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